The House of Juliet
Juliet V. Strauss 1863-1918
“Strauss not only advised her readers to find beauty
and spirituality in their own lives, but she fought to protect
it in her own life through her successful effort to preserve
Turkey Run’s grandeur.”
—Ray E. Boomhower, The Country Contributor:
The Life and Times of Juliet V. Strauss
In Ladies’ Home Journal, I extolled
the unsung pleasure of rolling out a cobbler crust
or pulling sun-dried laundry from the line.
But my heart’s domicile
was the wilderness near Rockville,
where as a child I turned handsprings on canyon floors
and shimmied up sandstone walls
to lichen-covered cliffs fringed by ferns.
Papa praised my questing spirit,
and when he died, a young man,
with hands gnarled from carpentry,
the wind in hemlocks cradled me,
scoured rocks taught me to persevere amid poverty
and honor the plain and simple.
Hitching up my skirts, I traipsed the rivulets of Sugar Creek
and meandered through cool,
dark grottos to reach masses of jewelweed,
tiny cornucopias filled with evening light.
In 1916, when the Hoosier Veneer Company
began measuring the black walnut trees
to divide them into gunstocks,
I did what I could—put my pen to the task,
composing columns and letters
till public sentiment roused.
My place became our place: Turkey Run State Park,
with mossy hollows reminiscent
of some enchanted house. A shaft of light
instead of the kitchen table.
Water over stone,
the wheel that spins our thread.
Shari Wagner is a former Indiana Poet Laureate (2016-2017) and the author of three books of poems: The Farm Wife’s Almanac, The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana, and Evening Chore. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Shenandoah, The Writer’s Almanac, and American Life in Poetry.