Linda McCauley Freeman ~ Three Poems for the New World


My hus­band and I stum­ble upon hous­es frozen in time—
pink-tiled pow­der rooms, pan­eled walls, and mod
base­ment bars mir­rored as if Hugh Hefner were expected.

In one bright orange and green kitchen, all that is missing
is the big sun­flower smi­ley-face clock my father made,
tick­ing time away. Our neigh­bor­hood, all Sears & Roebuck
hous­es from the ‘20s, but inside firm­ly lived the ear­ly ‘70s
where we col­lid­ed against each oth­er in opti­mistic outfits:
my flower pow­er velour dress, my sis­ter in her white
GoGo boots zip­pered in back, my broth­ers’ striped
bell-bot­toms, my father’s fat ties big as his belly.
We nev­er had the ubiq­ui­tous green shag carpet
because my moth­er liked wood floors. And upstairs,
my hard-won bed­room, pur­ple-draped, for royalty
or Lent, I was nev­er sure which.



Before it became “Dr. Bull’s House,”
as every­one in town calls it, it was
the coun­try home of Thomas Gray, 1929-‘47.

At a crowd­ed dance, room spilling in rhythm,
my hus­band hud­dles with an old­er woman. I thread
my way to them. He intro­duces her, saying,
“We’ve just moved into her grandfather’s Victorian.”
She talks of the steep hill over the Hudson,
the nar­row ser­vant stairs, chas­ing his dogs
up and down, their nails scrap­ing the wood.
We can still see the marks.

It was the Faulhaber house 1925-‘29
and before that, the Sudbrinks from Manhattan—
Charlie and Ella on swing­ing Saturday nights
motor­ing to Harlem, bour­bon bot­tles rattling
under the floorboards.

They bought it from William P. Garman, here a short year,
end of the war, cusp of Spanish Flu. He pur­chased it
from Ed Lewis, who inher­it­ed it from his maid­en aunt,
Elizabeth, along with $500 and $100 to his wife,
Mrs. Edward Lewis, her own name lost to history.

Who was Elizabeth Lewis? How did a sin­gle woman,
corset­ed in steel stays, become unbound in 1864
to buy land from the slave-own­ing DuBois fam­i­ly, famous
in our coun­ty, and lat­er build our 1877 Victorian?
I like to think I also inher­it­ed from her.

When we plant the gar­den, we unearth bullets
we trace on Google to the Civil War era, and today,
a tiny unbro­ken glass vial of morphine
that must have fall­en from Dr. Bull’s black bag.

In the attic we find the wine stash of his teenage son
who died in Vietnam. A wing shot sent Robert Bull’s C‑7A
spi­ral­ing. We clean and stack the col­ored bottles
from the town win­ery that is no more.

Cracks slith­er up and down the walls of our Victorian.
Its plas­ter can­not con­tain its past.
No mat­ter how often we scrape and patch and paint.



I col­lect Edith Wharton, so there
are those, thick on a shelf, a journey
through old New York, and a time
I would have been called “Bridget,” the lowly
scullery maid whose real name the mistress
nev­er both­ered to learn. Bent over steaming
water, car­ried and boiled, dip­ping my raw,
red hands into the vat slow­ly turn­ing black
with the day’s wash­ing, lye burn­ing into ridges
the pail’s met­al han­dle had griev­ed. But always
dream­ing of more as was the promise of America.

On my shelves, too, sit old mas­ters in modern
cov­ers, first edi­tions in prop­er jack­ets, names
on spines uncracked. Propped is “The Little House”
my favorite child­hood book, and “The Gondolier of Venice,”
with my mother’s handwriting.

But one book: its red blan­ket frayed, peeling
like Gypsy Rose Lee, the glue unglued,
the title once gold-embossed now lonely
Merriam-Webste, the “r” long gone,
and its first frag­ile page,
caught in some long-ago wrinkle,
now reads: Nith New Cegiate Dtionary,
a cru­el joke on itself. But articulate
alpha­bet­i­cal tabs sum­mon my fingers,
open to “G” and a stamp-size illustration
of a grand tour­ing car—
n. (1970), 2‑passenger coupe—called also
grand tour­er. And pressed rose petals
from some long-for­got­ten lover,
maybe even the one I briefly mar­ried, brittle
and fad­ed to a burnt mustard—were they ever red?
I am look­ing for Google, which doesn’t exit,
but Yahoo does— 1. A boor­ish, crass, or stupid
per­son. 2. A mem­ber of a race of brutes in Swift’s
Gulliver’s Travels who have the form and all
the vices of man.


Linda McCauley Freeman is the author of the full-length poet­ry col­lec­tion The Family Plot (Backroom Window Press, 2022) and has been wide­ly pub­lished in inter­na­tion­al jour­nals, includ­ing in a Chinese trans­la­tion. She was nom­i­nat­ed for a Pushcart Prize 2021. Recently she appeared in Delta Poetry Review, Poet Magazine, Amsterdam Quarterly, and won Grand Prize in StoriArts Maya Angelou poet­ry con­test. She was select­ed by the Arts MidHudson for Poets Respond to Art 2020 and 2021 shows and was a three-time win­ner in the Talespinners Short Story con­test judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA from Bennington College and is the for­mer poet-in-res­i­dence of the Putnam Arts Council. She lives in the Hudson Valley, NY. Follow her at