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Updated: 3-13-09

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VAGABOND's HOUSE

When I have a house. As I sometime may
Iíll suit my fancy in every way
Iíll fill it with things that have caught my eye
In drifting from Iceland to Molokai
It won't be correct or in period style
But.....oh, Iíve thought for a long, long while
Of all the corners and all the nooks,
Of all the bookshelves and all the books,
The great big table, the deep, soft chairs,
And an old, old rug from far Chow Wan
That a Chinese princess once walked on.

With a tall lone pine on guard near by
Where the birds can sing and the storm winds cry
A flat stone walk with lazy curves
Will lead to the door where a Panís head serves
As a knocker there like a vibrant drum
To let me know that a friend has come
And the door will squeak as I swing it wide
To welcome you to the cheer inside.

For Iíll have good friends who can sit and chat
Or simply sit, when it comes to that,
By the fireplace where the fir logs blaze
And the smoke rolls up in a weaving haze.
Iíll want a wood box, scarred and rough
For leaves and bark and odorous stuff
Like resinous knots and cones and gums
To chuck on the flames when winter comes;
And hope a cricket will stay around,
For I love its creaky, lonesome sound.

Thereíll be driftwood powder to burn on the logs
And a shaggy rug for a couple of dogs--
Boreas, winner of prize and cup,
And Mickey, a lovable pup.
Thoroughbreds, both of them, right from the start,
One by breeding, the other by heart,
There are times when only a dog will do
For a friend - when youíre beaten, sick and blue,
And the worldís all wrong; for he wonít care
If you break and cry, or grouch and swear;
For heíll let you know as he licks your hands
That heís downright sorry - and understands.

Iíll have on a bench a box inlaid
With dragon - plaques of milk - white jade
To hold my own particular brand
Of cigarettes brought from the Pharaohís land.
With a cloisonnť bowl on a lizardís skin
To flick my cigarette ashes in,
And a squat blue jar for a certain blend
Of pipe tobacco. Iíll have to send
To a quaint old chap I chanced to meet
In his fusty shop on a London street.

A long, low shelf of teak will hold
My best loved books in leather and gold,
While magazines lie on a bowlegged stand
In a polyglot mixture close at hand.
Iíll have on the table a rich brocade
That I think the pixies must have made
For the dull gold thread on blues and grays
Weaves the pattern of Puck - the Magic Maze.
On the mantelpiece Iíll have a place
For a little mud god with a painted face,
That was given to me --oh, so long ago,
By a Philippine maid in Olangapo.

Then - just in range of a lazy reach -
A bulging bowl of Indian beech
Will brim with things that are good to munch -
Hickory nuts to crack and crunch,
Big fat raisins and sun dried dates
And curious fruits from the Malay Straits,
Maple sugar and cookies brown
With good hard cider to wash them down,
Wine - sap apples, pick of the crop,
And ears of corn to shell and pop,
With plenty of butter and lots of salt -
If you donít get filled its not my fault.

And there where the shadows fall Iíve planned
To have a magnificent Concert Grand
With polished wood and ivory keys.
For wild discordant rhapsodies,
For wailing minor Hindu songs,
For Chinese chants and clanging gongs,
For flippant jazz and for lullabies,
And for moody things that Iíll improvise
To play the long gray dusk away
And bid good-bye to another day.

Pictures - I think Iíll have but three;
One in oil, of a wind - swept sea
With the flying scud and the waves whipped white
( I know the chap who can paint it just right)
In lapis blue and deep jade green -
A great big smashing fine marine
Thatíll make you feel the spray in your face -
Iíll hang it over my fireplace.

The second picture - a freakish thing -
Is gaudy and bright as a macawís wing -
An impressionistic smear called ďSinĒ,
A nude on a striped zebra skin
By a Danish girl I knew in France.
My respectable friends will look askance
At the purple eyes and the scarlet hair,
At the pallid face and the evil stare
Of a sinister, beautiful vampire face,
I shouldnít have it about the place,
But I like - while I loathe - the beastly thing,
And thatís the way one feels about sin.

The picture I love best of all
Will hang alone on my study wall
Where the sunsetís glow and the moonís cold gleam
Will fall on the face and make it seem
That the eyes in the picture are meeting mine,
That the lips are curved in the fine, sweet line
Of that wistful, tender, provocative smile
That has stirred my heart for a wondrous while
. Itís the sketch of a girl who loved too well
To tie me down to that bit of Hell
That a drifter knows when he finds heís held
By the soft, strong chains that passions weld.

It was best for her and for me, I know,
That she measured my love and bade me go,
For we both have our great illusion yet
Unsoiled, unspoiled by a vain of regret.
I donít deny that it makes me sad
To know that Iíve missed what I might have had.
Itís a clean, sweet memory quite apart,
And Iíve been faithful - in my heart.

All these things I will have about,
Not a one could I do without,
Cedar and sandalwood chips to burn
In the tarnished bowl of a copper urn,
A paperweight of meteorite
That seared and scored the sky one night,
A Moro kris - my paper knife -
Once slit the throat of a Rajahís wife.

The beams of my house will be fragrant wood
That once in a teeming jungle stood
As a proud, tall tree where the leopards couched,
And the parrot screamed, and the blackmen crouched.
The roof must have a rakish dip
To shadowy eaves where the rain can drip
In a damp, persistent, tuneful way;
Itís cheerful sound on a gloomy day,
And I want a shingle loose somewhere
To wail like a banshee in despair
When the wind is high and the storm gods race,
And I am snug by my fireplace.

I hope a couple of birds will nest
Around the house. Iíll do my best
To make them happy so every year
Theyíll raise their fledglings here.
When I have my house I will suit myself,
And have what I call my ď Condiment ShelfĒ
Filled with all manner of herbs and spice,
Curry and chutney for meats and rice,
Pots and bottles of extract rare -
Onions and garlic will both be there -
And soya and saffron and savory - goo
And stuff that Iíll buy from an old Hindu.

Ginger and syrup in quaint stone jars,
Almonds and figs in tinseled bars,
Askrakhan caviar, highly prized,
And citron and orange peel crystallized,
Anchovy paste and poha jam,
Basil and chili and marjoram,
Pickles and cheeses from every land,
And flavors that come from Samarkand;
And hung with a string from a handy hook
Will be a dog-eared, well - thumbed book
That is pasted full of recipes
From France and Spain and the Caribbees -
Roots and leaves and herbs to use
For curios soups and odd ragouts.

Iíll have a cook that Iíll name Oh Joy,
A sleek, fat, yellow-face Chinese boy
Who can roast a pig or fix a drink
( You canít improve on a slant-eyed Chink).
On the gray-stone hearth thereíll be a mat
For a scrappy, swaggering yellow cat
With a war-scarred face from a hundred fights
With the neighborís cats on moonlight nights;
A wise old Tom who can hold his own
And make my dogs let him alone.

Iíll have a window seat broad and deep
Where I can sprawl to read or sleep,
With windows placed so I can turn
And watch the sunsets blaze and burn
Beyond high peaks that scar the sky
Like bare white wolf fangs that defy,
The very gods. Iíll have a nook
For a savage idol that I took
From a ruined Temple in Peru
A demon chaser named Mang-Chu,
To guard my house by night and day
And keep all evil things away.

Pewter and bronze and hammered brass,
Old carved wood and gleaming glass,
Candles in polychrome candlesticks,
And peasant lamps in floating wicks,
Dragons in silk on a Mandarin suit,
In a chest that is filled with vagabond loot;
All the beautiful, useless things
That a vagabondís aimless drifting brings.

Then, when my house is all complete,
Iíll stretch me out on a window seat
With my favorite book and a cigarette,
And a long, cool drink that Oh Joy will get,
And Iíll look about my bachelor nest
While the sun goes zooming down the west,
And make me think of some heathen place
That Iíve failed to see - that Iíve missed someway -
A place that Iíd planned to find someday;
And Iíll feel the lure of it drawing me,
Oh damn, I know what the end will be.

Iíll go. And my house will fall away,
While the mice by night and the moths by day
Will nibble the covers off all my books,
And the spiders weave in shadowed nooks,
And my dogs - Iíll see they have a home
While I follow the sun, while I drift and roam
To the ends of the earth like a chip on the stream,
Like a straw on the wind, like a vagrant dream;
And the thought will strike with a swift, sharp pain
That I probably never build again
This house that Iíll have in some far day.

Poem by Don Blanding

Presented by Ronald J. Fallahay , ATM
Toastmasters Dramatic Reading

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