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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
Broken and forgoten historic photographs

Submitted: April 19, 2008

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Submitted: April 19, 2008



Ambling there on country roads,

mossy stonewalls hemming,

remembering  ‘something there is

that doesn’t love a wall’.

Here in a northern autumn strolling

tree-tunnelled twisting lanes,

private and recluse ante-bellum estates

reveal themselves beyond the guarding stones.

On these estates, made richer on fratricidal profits,

men here indulged their leisure pursuits

and prayed for more exsanguinations,

then went the way of annual flowers.


Fashions changed and generations lost memory.

So now the wandering along laneways

exposes outbuildings abandoned over time,

museums in decay,

begging exploration by passers-by,

despite threatening rusted signs

and the doing of trespass.


Camouflaged by wisteria and dogwoods

grown most of  seven score,

there lies a greening temple where

soot and dust and leaf litter

obscure whatever is unbroken and still in place.

Shards of glass –

broken of storms and fallen branches,

of pinecones and stones

thrown by boys without knowledge –

lie under the debris of

multi-generational neglect.


Enter this gallery of etched glass

and a thousand eyes follow silent,

pleading for remembrance and release

from this place – once green –

of forgotten lives.


Some panes remain intact,

images faded by sun and weather.

Men with guns and uniforms,

and mounted troops, generals, and

mere boys kitted out with drums.

A history lesson unseen by those

who never once saw old photographic plates.


This greening temple when new

grew verdant life so organised.

Now wild green things inhabit where

a systematic man once propagated

his imported flora.

Rarer still, these photographic plates,

slices of time, epitaphs and tombstones

faded and ethereal,

victims now

as much as the people etched upon them. 


To amble country roads

and twisting lanes in a northern autumn

is to find social treasures


purchase of sanguinary profits,

fragile as life,

lying forgotten as others

grow richer on current wars.



James Gagiikwe  © 2008



  • During the US Civil War tens of thousands of photographs were taken of the conflict. So many photographic plates were exposed that after the war the stacks of excess plates were used to glaze greenhouses. Over time most of these were sun damaged or broken, and the history lost.
  • Robert Frost: ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’


© Copyright 2018 James Gagiikwe. All rights reserved.

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