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Last Verses of Esther Buffler

Esther Buffler


She was the unflappable queen of Portsmouth poetry, the city's first poet laureate and she worte poems un her 90s until the very day of her death. Here are four of the last two dozen verses by Esther Buffler from her book IT'S ALL AHEAD published posthumously by Phinease Press.



It’s All Ahead:
Poems 2000 - 2002

By Esther Buffler
Phineas, Portsmouth, 2003

Poets are often depicted as shrinking violets, souls enclosed almost painfully inside their own introspective worlds. Not so Esther Buffler. Even into her 90s Esther was still onstage, still swinging, still writing verse.

She will be remembered as the first of Portsmouth’s poet laureates, a post created in many ways, in order to tie the city to her free flowing coattails. She is remembered for her floppy hats, her five books of poems, her warbling theatrical performances and her unquenchable love of life.

She died in August of 2002 at the age of 93. But in the dawning years of the 21st century she had continued to write. Susan Kress Hamilton, a close friend of Esther’s, has collected her last 23 poems into a gentle paperback tribute entitled "It’s All Ahead." Susan and business partner Bill Hamilton have published the paperback through their company Phineas. New Hampshire poet laureate Marie Harris composed the Foreword.

"Before Ess died," Susan says, "we had been talking about doing a book. This collection of poems talks about illness and death in a very articulate way. I was getting them as she wrote them. The last poem in the book is the poem she wrote the day she died."

Susan sees great hope in these verses. Publishing them, she writes in the book, was part of her grieving process. Now she sees their value for hospice patients who can learn, through example, how Esther faced her last difficult years with dignity, self discovery, humor and even joy.

Esther, of course, could never really die. Her "life force" was much too powerful. The local poets she mothered and cajoled during her 25 years in her adopted town of Portsmouth form the core of the city’s poetry renaissance. Last summer 100 of Esther’s favorite hats were auctioned at the Rockingham Hotel where Esther had lived. "Hats Off to Esther" raised funds in cooperation with the Greater Piscataqua Community Foundation. The money goes toward poetry programs in the local schools.

Following are two selections from the book, including Esther’s final poem "Chill It", handwritten on her last day and printed in its original draft form. -- JDR

This volume of Esther Buffler’s work is available at Phineas on Penhallow Street, at Riverrun Books in Commercial Alley and at Tulips on Market Street.

READ ALSO: The Unflappable Esther Buffler

Poems by Esther Buffler
From It's All Ahead (2003)

By Esther Buffler

out the window flip flap flutter wild excitement
among oak pine BIRDS talk talk talk
sounds like harpsichord

nothing else matters

cars every color snake down the lanes slivering
but E’s heart zings with the birds feathers
close to the bone

home care Freda pulls as on
in agony yell-spell from bath grabbed saved

fantastic Bird Spirit swoops surround
feathers up the old one

fly her to the great earth trees and seas of the

By Esther Buffler

Years ago in working theater,
New York City, I rode the subway.
Amng the ads overhead, an Emily
Dickinson poem; the push, jerk, smell,
squeal of track, tired faces all glided
away.....that small poem stayed
peering downa t me........

I love hats.

By Esther Buffler

flickers across the plain
night late Novermber
snow fog drizzle ice
New England

body crisis subsides
feel it through
like the cry of the feline
in full understanding
knowing shat's ahead

whether whiter
frenzy of energy

need weave words
pot in the geraniums

By Esther Buffler

the pill colony
open eyes to the way it is
huge tray
tiny cups of carefully chosen pills
a trough of hope for waiting mouths
caught in emotional load.

the rains stopped
sun breathtaking!
scratched my initials on favorite tree
never ending stories of when and where
bits of realty spill out.

life slips away
Grammy – earth woman
she took my hand and died.

From It's All Ahead
Poems by Esther Buffler copyright © 2003 by Phineas. Used by permission. Photograph of Esther and commentry by J. Dennis Robinson,
Copyright © 2004 J. Dennis Robinson. 

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