March 17, 2017

An Elegy for My Grandmother's House, at the Occasion of Its Sale

Inside
the hall is warmer and longer than it
ever will be again, and I race, I hide,
I laugh myself into the long memory
of this house. The closet is a coffin
entombing dark coats, and in my fear
I fall asleep with arms around my
knees outside my grandparents’
bedroom. In the day, the kitchen
is small and made for applesauce
and beets and jelly sandwiches.
We ride a horse named Twister
around the world several times
over, only to find that he is a fraying
butterscotch-colored couch and
less prone to galloping than
we originally assumed.

Outside
the ball arcs past the drainage ditch,
and tall grass itches against my legs
as I leap. The sewer tunnel disappears
into unspoken darkness, and our
duskbathed bodies flee from the
warm windows toward the garden
and the locked-up magic of the
shed. The wonder is in our lungs.

Inside
the grown-ups tell old stories
across the dining room table, but
the laughter of the basement is
all for us. The disused bedrooms
are stacked high with everything
we could need, with an unsolved
mystery stored in the cabinets
behind the blue drape. The laundry
room creeps far backward into
shelves of preserved fruit and
canned soup, and we grow up
before we dare to venture all the
way back on our own. I sleep
in the big bed alone, and my
grandfather’s breath passes
through a dark glass in
the next room over.

Outside
the rain floods the yard, and the
bird fountain becomes a waterfall.

Inside
the clock chimes, and I walk past the
dark piano and the dark glass table,
watching the streetlight fringe the
blinds. The desk lamp illuminates
the residue of my grandfather’s
breath in the quiet midnight room,
and the clock chimes. I choose my
favorite mug from the cupboard
and drink a glass of water in the
big night kitchen, smelling the
residue of Thanksgiving turkeys
and chocolate cakes in the gentle
air. Grandmother, you will not
remember this kitchen, but this
kitchen will remember being
nurtured and worked by your
aching and tireless hands.

Inside
the nightlight casts blues and
greens and eerie reds upon the
bathroom walls, and I am
under the covers at last, I am
holding this place in my mind.
Grandfather, I hope you are
smiling to yourself, because
the footsteps of your children
echo in these rooms, falling in
pleasant places, running toward
a good inheritance; and the only
louder sound is laughter.

Outside
fireflies weave through the warm fabric
of storms, and a train whistle is
a lonesome caller dialing an old friend.
A thousand feet above, the bloodshot
eyes of radio towers wink knowingly
at planes. I call my friend from
the driveway, and we talk of
summer freedoms. Later
I stand beneath the window
four feet from the corner where
electric light dyes the concrete
tangerine, and I watch elm trees
play with the flashing jagged fire
of storms. I hope you are sleeping
soundly, grandfather; I hope you
are smiling to yourself, because I
am looking to the heavens, and
even at three-o-clock this morning,
I see nothing there but light.