Letter to the Editor: Thoughts About Potomac, A Poem

Penelope Doyle Johnson shares her thoughts on the changes to Potomac over the last several years.

By Penelope Johnson

I worked in Potomac for quite a few years (Bullis and Potomac United Methodist Church) and got to know a lot about its history and the people who live here now.

Fascinated by the early history from when Potomac was an Indian trail and through the Civil War skirmishes right here in Potomac and how it affected families and church congregations, I am drawn back often. I live in Rockville and spend every waking minute writing or spending time with family, grandchildren and our dogs, some of whom come with rescue tales (tails!) of their own.

This poem comes from Penelope's second book of poetry, “Opening the Fog Box,” to be published soon. Her first book, “Elegy of the Catsparrow Moon” was published in 2012.


worthy Eggs

Those with influence refuse to change the rustic roads

that fill up with headlight-jacked deer,

downed trees and storm water.

Notwithstanding, change does come,

and now the damn eggs are gone.


Whenever I visited in town, I would take the back way home

and look for the fence sign of a fat red chicken

which meant that there were eggs for strangers.

Not just any eggs from the grandfathered-in chickens

…some were so big, the egg box would not shut.


On a summer or fall day, a little donkey

with a little shadow burrow would stand hoof deep in chickens

and the owners son, looking like a beardless Lincolnesque trapper

in leather stained with years of natural dirt,

would offer lengths of hanging garlic as well,

his barrel-chested lab close behind to greet me.


After Christmas I came over the rise of the hill

to see if the chicken sign was out,

hoping to buy as many cartons of eggs

as they would sell me, but the sign was absent,

the burrow and donkey had moved on somewhere,

the red chickens missing, the field all bare

and in its place was the large, new grey shell house foundation

up near the fence.

It is to be someone’s house

so I will not say it was jarring.


I don’t know why it made me so sad. 

It was as if the very grandfather that allowed chickens

minutes from the heart of town

and the toney shops had finally died without telling me.

I was born at the wrong time

and that loss was mourned

all the way home

and then some.


Diann Onsted February 10, 2013 at 05:26 PM
This poem expresses my sentiments so well, (as a twenty-nine year resident of Potomac). Thank you Penelope.


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