Amy Lowell ( )

Off the Turnpike

Good evnin, Mis Priest.
I jest stepped in to tell you Good-bye.
Yes, its all over.
All my things is packed
An every last one o them boxes
Is on Bradleys team
Bein hauled over to th depot.
No, I aint goin back agin.
Im stoppin over to Frenchs fer to-night,
And goin down first train in th mornin.
Yes, it do seem kinder queer
Not to be goin to see Cherrys Orchard no more,
But Land Sakes!  When a changes comin,
Why, I alays say it cant come too quick.
Now, thats real kind o you,
Your doughnuts is always so tasty.
Yes, Im goin to Chicago,
To my niece,
Shes married to a fine man, hardware business,
An doin real well, she tells me.
Lizzies ben at me to go out ther for the longest while.
She aint got no kith nor kin to Chicago, you know
Shes rented me a real nice little flat,
Same house as hers,
An Im goin to try that city livin folks says so pleasant.
Oh, yes, he was real generous,
Paid me a sight o money fer the Orchard;
I told him twouldnt yield nothin but stones,
But he aint farmin it.
Lor, no, Mis Priest,
Hes jest took it to set and look at the view.
Mebbe he wouldnt be so stuck on the view
Ef hed seed it every mornin and night for forty year
Sames as I have.
I dessay its pretty enough,
But its so pressed into me
I cn seet with my eyes shut.
No.  I aint cold, Mis Priest,
Dont shut th door.
Ill be all right in a minit.
But I aint a mite sorry to leave that view.
Well, mebbe tis queer to feel so,
An mebbe taint.
My!  But that teas revivin.
Old things aint always pleasant things, Mis Priest.
No, no, I dont callate on comin back,
Thats why Id ruther be to Chicago,
Bostons too near.
It aint cold, Mis Priest,
Its jest my thoughts.
I aint sick, only --
Mis Priest, ef youve nothin ter take yer time,
An have a mind to listen,
Thers somethin Id like ter speak about
I aint never mentioned it,
But Id like to tell yer fore I go.
Would you mind lowerin them shades,
Fall twilights awful grey,
An that fires real cosy with the shades drawed.
Well, I guess folks about here think Ive ben dretful onsociable.
You neednt say taint so, cause I know diffrent.
An whats more, its true.
Well, the reason is Ive ben scared out o my life.
Scared evry minit o th time, fer eight year.
Eight mortal year tis, come next June.
Twas on the eighteenth o June,
Six months after Id buried my husband,
That somethin happened ter me.
Mebbe youll mind that afore that
I was a cheery body.
Hiram was too,
Alays liked to ask a neighbor in,
An evn when he died,
Barrin low sperrits, I warnt averse to seein nobody.
But that eighteenth o June changed evrythin.
I was doin most o th farmwork myself,
With jest a hired boy, Clarence King, twas,
Comin in fer an hour or two.
Well, that eighteenth o June
I was goin round,
Lockin up and seein to things fore I went to bed.
I was jest steppin out t th barn,
Goin round outside stead o through the shed,
Cause there was such a sight o moonlight
Somehow or another I thought twould be pretty outdoors.
I got settled for pretty things that night, I guess.
I aint stuck on em no more.
Well, them laylock bushes side o th house
Was real lovely.
Glittrin and shakin in the moonlight,
An the smell o them rose right up
An most took my breath away.
The colour o the spikes was all faded out,
They never keep their colour when the moons on em,
But the smell fair toxicated me.
I was alays partial to a sweet scent,
An I went close up t th bushes
Sos to put my face right into a flower.
Mis Priest, jests I got breathin in that laylock bloom
I saw, layin right at my feet,
A mans hand!
It was as whites the side o th house,
And sparklin like that lumnous paint they put on gate-posts.
I screamed right out,
I couldnt help it,
An I could hear my scream
Goin over an over
In that echo beind th barn.
Hearin it agin an agin like that
Scared me so, I darsnt scream any more.
I jest stood ther,
And looked at that hand.
I thought the echod begin to hammer like my heart,
But it didnt.
There was only th wind,
Sighin through the laylock leaves,
An slappin em up agin the house.
Well, I guess I looked at that hand
Most ten minits,
An it never moved,
Jest lay there white as white.
After a while I got to thinkin that o course
Twas some drunken tramp over from Redfield.
That calmed me some,
An I commenced to think Id better git him out
From under them laylocks.
I planned to drag him in t th barn
An lock him in ther till Clarence come in th mornin.
I got so mad thinkin o that all-fired brazen tramp
Asleep in my laylocks,
I jest stooped down and grabbed th hand and give it an awful pull.
Then I bumped right down settin on the ground.
Mis Priest, ther warnt no body come with the hand.
No, it aint cold, its jest that I cant abear thinkin of it,
Evn now.
Ill take a sip o tea.
Thank you, Mis Priest, thats better.
Id ruther finish now Ive begun.
Thank you, jest the same.
I dropped the hands ef itd ben red hot
Stead o ice cold.
Fer a minit or two I jest laid on that grass
Then I up and run to them laylocks
An pulled em every which way.
True es Im settin here, Mis Priest,
Ther warnt nothin ther.
I peeked an pryed all about em,
But ther warnt no man ther
Neither livin nor dead.
But the hand was ther all right,
Upside down, the way Id dropped it,
And glistnin fit to dazzle yer.
I dont know how I done it,
An I dont know why I done it,
But I wanted to git that dretful hand out o sight
I got in t th barn, somehow,
An felt roun till I got a spade.
I couldnt stop fer a lantern,
Besides, the moonlight was bright enough in all conscience.
Then I scooped that awful thing up in th spade.
I had a sight o trouble doin it.
It slid off, and tipped over, and I couldnt bear
Evn to touch it with my foot to prop it,
But I done it somehow.
Then I carried it off beind the barn,
Clost to an old apple-tree
Where you couldnt see from the house,
An I buried it,
Good an deep.
I dont reclect nothin more o that night.
Clarence woke me up in th mornin,
Hollerin fer me to come down and set th milk.
When hed gone,
I stole roun to the apple-tree
And seed the earth all new turned
Where I left it in my hurry.
I did a heap o gardenin
That mornin.
I couldnt cut no big sods
Fear Clarence would notice and ask me what I wanted em fer,
So I got teeny bits o turf here and ther,
And no one couldnt tell therd ben any diggin
When I got through.
They was awful days after that, Mis Priest,
I used ter go every mornin and poke about them bushes,
An up and down the fence,
Ter find the body that hand come off of.
But I couldnt never find nothin.
Id lay awake nights
Hearin them laylocks blowin and whiskin.
At last I had Clarence cut em down
An make a big bonfire of em.
I told him the smell made me sick,
An that warnt no lie,
I cant abear the smell on em now;
An no wonder, es you say.
I fretted somethin awful bout that hand
I wondered, could it be Hirams,
But folks dont rob graveyards hereabouts.
Besides, Hirams hands warnt that awful, starin white.
I give up seein people,
I was afeared Id say somethin.
You know what folks thought o me
Bettern I do, I dessay,
But mebbe now youll see I couldnt do nothin diffrent.
But I stuck it out,
I warnt goin to be downed
By no loose hand, no matter how it come ther
But that aint the worst, Mis Priest,
Not by a long ways.
Two year ago, Mr. Densmore made me an offer for Cherrys Orchard.
Well, Id got used to th thought o bein sort o blighted,
An I warnt scared no more.
Lived down my fear, I guess.
Id kinder got used to th thought o that awful night,
And I didnt mope much about it.
Only I never went out o doors by moonlight;
That stuck.
Well, when Mr. Densmores offer come,
I started thinkin bout the place
An all the things that had gone on ther.
Thinks I, I guess Ill go and see where I put the hand.
I was foolhardy with the long time that had gone by.
I knowd the place real well,
Fer Id put it right in between two o the apple roots.
I dont know what possessed me, Mis Priest,
But I kinder wanted to know
That the hand had been flesh and bone, anyway.
It had sorter bothered me, thinkin I might ha imagined it.
I took a mornin when the sun was real pleasant and warm;
I guessed I wouldnt jump for a few old bones.
But I did jump, somethin wicked.
Ther warnt no bones!
Ther warnt nothin!
Not evn the gold ring Id minded bein on the little finger.
I dont know ef ther ever was anythin.
Ive worried myself sick over it.
I ben diggin and diggin day in and day out
Till Clarence ketched me at it.
Oh, I knowd real well what you all thought,
An I aint sayin youre not right,
But I aint goin to end in no county sylum
If I cn help it.
The shivrin fits come on me sudden like.
I know em, dont you trouble.
Ive fretted considerable about the sylum,
I guess I ben frettin all the time I aint ben diggin.
But anyhow I cant dig to Chicago, can I?
Thank you, Mis Priest,
Im better now.  I only dropped in in passin.
Ill jest be steppin along down to Frenchs.
No, I wont be seein nobody in the mornin,
Its a pretty early start.
Dont you stand ther, Mis Priest,
The windll blow yer lamp out,
An I cn see easy, I got aholt o the gate now.
I aint a mite tired, thank you.

Amy Lowell's other poems:
  1. The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde
  2. The Bungler
  3. The Matrix
  4. The Bombardment
  5. The Promise of the Morning Star

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