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The House of Juliet, a poem by Shari Wagner





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.