My cousins and I bunk in the impromptu nursery
cribs crowded together with a sewing machine
and drapery fabrics and unfinished curtains
near the sunset bedroom originally Olive Plant’s,
across from the Roosevelt room and the guest bath
white porcelain tile, needle surround shower, fixtures of brass.
I protest removal from the family reunion
whisky and cigarettes and billiards
balls released from the triangular rack
at cue ball’s impact
into one another crack and slam
scattering across the table’s cloth covered slate
Four Roses Bourbon, ginger ale, and ice
clinks in highball glasses.
My father and the men brag about cue stick skills
the women in blouses and long skirts
sit on the bench legs crossed
by the marbled fireplace
and on stuffed chairs
beneath the antlered deer head
laugh about men
talk about their children
in the recreation hall
player organ with a hundred shelved rolls
Tiffany case clock near entry to the living room
calendar dials of
sun and moon and stars rise and fall
Tiffany dinner chime
by the oak door to the octagon dining room
castle atop Lee Mountain.
Nana supervised dinner preparation
and infant grandchildren
who will be put to bed
crawl to pull teeth out of the polar bear rug
mouth open waiting to be fed.
During the party, grandfather
In gray business suit
pants lifted by suspenders
tie held by a pin
works in his office off the carriage entrance
his Abenaki grandmother framed black and white on the desk
of the estate he bought in 1941.
In September’s afternoon light
photographs are taken
the family on the front terraced lawn
by the pool with the fountain
the view to Winnepesaukee.
Grandfather and Nana pose center of the lineup.
Mother standing next to him, father wears his brown Army uniform
after Basic Training, thin, no jacket, shirt collar open.
His rifle company ships in a week
to the Italian front.
One class A steam engine could do it all
Plow the track from Boston to Montreal,
I watched from a green leather upholstered chair
Arriving passengers climb granite block stairs
From the cream-colored brick station down the hill,
Baggage carts, water and coal to refill,
Streams of white vapor hissing, the locomotive
By the long platform with arched portico
Protecting passengers today from snow.
Mother walked me holding my hand
Each day to watch the rocking train
Round the rail curve from Ashland
Pulling into view then slowing
As if it stopped just for us.
Is Daddy on this train?
He never was
I did not know
In the Army Italy Germany
When he would come home.
Who would cross the street to enter the Inn,
Push the wood framed glass door to the lobby?
The engineer of the south bound train,
A traveling salesman of whiskies and cigars,
The middle-aged woman who lived nearby
And owned an investment office in Boston,
Tourists going to the new ski slopes
Where refugee Austrian instructors
Taught Alpine techniques based on stem christies?
Telegraph operator second shift?
The hotel baggage room off the lobby
Was the wartime telegraph office
Tapping news, deaths, and emergencies.
Landline key, radio key, repeater,
Relay, register, rolls of narrow paper,
Stationary for pasting messages.
When the register clattered alive
Lobby conversation became subdued.
I did not know why.
North of the Presidentials
Pinup poster on the wall, creased with folds,
Clustered pin holes
A young black woman in swimsuit poses
Smiles encouragement to soldiers
Eighteen years after the war.
A black peep mag in a bureau drawer
Pulp paper already yellow
Fingerprinted by seasons of men
Who wrote their names on bedroom walls
Etched slogans with penknives
On wooden desk and chairs,
“I love you Shurine”, “I miss you Clare.”
Black cooks, dishwashers, wait staff
Arrive from Florida hotels mid-June
To prepare the kitchen for the resort’s opening,
Sleep short nights on sagging single beds
In the black men’s employee dorm.
I arrive early to work on the golf course
To clear winter debris from storms
Repair greens install ball washers
Whip grass straight up for cutting
Kill moles on the putting green
With a hammer at 5 AM
When they began to burrow.
In the wood frame dormitory
My room was in the northwest corner
Second floor above Priscilla Brook,
I sit in a rocker on the porch, evenings,
Fireflies swarm after twilight
Rising into the canopy of trees
Frogs chirrup nearby in vernal pools
Insects scrape their wings in unison
Answering passion’s call.
The dark buildings of the resort
Squat nearby, dowagers without consort.
When the white men’s dorm opened
I move in with other workers.
The rooms smelled musty
Of wet plaster board, old carpets, wood mold,
Aromas soon masked in evening drinking fetes
I would not join,
Whiskey and salty crackers and sausages
God forbid Spam
The single electric ceiling light off
A can of Sterno chafing fuel flickers.
In the tiny crossroads village,
The women employees’ dormitory opened last,
A three-story building with a large reception room
Fronted by a porch:
Waitresses, housekeepers, musicians, salesclerks
Office staff, receptionists, hairdressers, swim instructors
Child day-caretakers, tennis instructors,
Tight blue jeans, short shorts and skirts
White socks and tennis shoes
T-shirts, colored and pattern blouses,
Perfumes, shampoo, makeup
Conversation, laughter, flirting, gossip,
Portable record players
Saturday evening hops
In the village community house.