but she wants me to post a status about our family’s property
being on the market anyway.
Maybe, she figures, she’ll pray to her saviour, I’ll make an appeal
to mine, and all our shooting-star wishes will come true.
I open Zillow, type “17059” in the search box, and it takes me a while to get my directional bearings. I never knew whether we were north, south, east, or west of anywhere else. We were just
in the valley,
where all the Worralls live.
Yes, the Worralls.
(I think I can tell you which direction most points are in Vancouver, but in a town of 800, I’m fucking lost on this map.)
So now I see
The Two Red Dots
I’m looking for,
the house and further up the road, the land—
between Shady Lane and Cleck Road, with Stoner Road and Winding Creek Lane in the middle.
The flat white and gray electronic map with two red dots—it tells nothing about the rolling hills where I used to run a mile from our house to Mam and Pap’s, or how I would sometimes stop in at Aunt Betty’s on the way up the road, and how Aunt Betty would take a walk with me down Stoner Road back when it was just a dirt road with no name or sign, with a small creek where Dad would sometimes take me fishing but with Aunt Betty the mission was to collect a bouquet of wild flowers and a basket full of blackberries.
In the mid-1980s there was this guy flying around in a helicopter,
taking pictures of people’s houses and selling them the photographs of the aerial view and it was like
this perspective is amazing
because we never see anything in the sky other than birds
and wow, another person flew over our house just to take a picture of us!
And now, like the robins, sparrows, blue jays, and woodpeckers, we can see
the tops of trees, pixels of gravel—
our home looking so small that way makes it feel so important.
I’m pretty sure everyone in Arch Rock bought one.
We hung ours in the kitchen. Every morning, I sat at the table eating breakfast while looking at the aerial shot and wondering if I was eating breakfast at the time this picture was being taken.
So Red Dot #1, our house with the address 1789 Arch Rock Road—our road also didn’t have a real name back in the day, just RR#1—two letters, one number—that’s how small we were, and no lines down the middle of the road—I scroll through the pictures and see
where I used to sit on the porch swing and listen rumble of the Port Royal races travel over the hill every Saturday night,
and the slope in the yard between my and Davey’s house, where I’d tobaggan down in my blue saucer when we got the right kind of snow,
and the pool where Christians got baptized by the Methodist pastor (after which my mom served eggrolls) one summer,
the bed my dad lay in,
the living room my mom always prays to Buddha in (at the altar, on her Ipad),
and the orange kitchen counter, which apparently turns off prospective buyers who don’t appreciate how much retro/vintage is ahead of its time.
What I don’t tell my sister is that I’m praying to my unidentifiable god that the house, the land never get sold because you can’t sell always-and-forever homes. You just can’t.
It’s only now that I really notice the wind chime with seashells hanging on the strings from a rattan gazebo with a plastic bird inside. It hangs in what used to be the kitchen window, before the outside became inside when Dad added a room onto the house.
I’ve never heard that wind chime’s music before.
I want to go home to hear it,
to hear what it has to say.
Attic: Dad’s highchair, pool supplies, plastic flowers, hula hoops
bent in some parts of the circle
gone-astray-until Mom picked them up tennis balls from the playground in Westwood, Los Angeles
Chloe and Mylo’s three-storey dollhouse and its furniture and its family of five and
some extra doll parts
unopened Dollar Store finds birthed from thoughts of “it’s so cheap, I could use that someday”
brief lives of stuff.
Hey, I remember that old artificial tree. But it’s not here anymore. We live in a country full of trees, but we’d put up the same fake tree every year, its faux pine needles scratching my hands and cheeks like porcupine quills, I imagined, positioning the metal branches into the holes of the metal trunk, decorating it with scratched bulbs and thinning, crinkled silver and gold tinsel in the living room by the window, where the Santa Claus I didn’t believe in, not really, ever, would put my presents.
I came up here to the attic,
carefully pushing open the door so as to not get any splinters,
pushed the swinging latch over the door to keep it open.
Mom told me to get the Christmas tree, but she neglected to tell me about
THE FOUR DEER CARCASSES
lined up in the middle of the attic-cum-morgue.
At eye level, they looked like naked human corpses. I sucked in a deep breath
that could have frozen my heart. Then,
hey, it’s just dead deer. And they only stink a little. Now where is that old tree? Stepping over
to find our Charlie Brown fake tree.
The tree’s not in the attic anymore. It was banished from the attic when Dad determined it was taking up good space that could be used for anything else at all. Dad, who became a Christian late in life, always hated Christmas. So he threw out that goddamn old fake Christmas tree because why the hell would he bother decorating when the kids were all grown and out of the house anyway? (The pool supplies—still there even though the pool had been filled in with dirt for the same exact reason.)
It’s cold so I’m not worried about the wasps. I bump my head on a beam,
my sweater catches on a rough edge as I start to go back down the stairs.
With one hand holding up the door, I look at the attic,
picturing all that used to be in here,
picturing it all gone.
Houses, Homes #1
Six years old, and I wanted to buy a house. I didn’t know about square feet at the time, but if I had known, I’d say approximately three square feet would be perfectly palatial. Seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, three-storey with a basement and a big dining room, enough for my not-yet-acquired family of five and their two dogs and one cat. I wanted a wooden house with a medium-dark gloss finish, and shingles too. And a fence. And I’d do the landscaping—maybe cut a small square or rectangle from Mammy’s fake-grass rug on her porch. The family would love it, especially the identical twin girls who always knew what each other was thinking. The mom makes delicious cookies everyday, and the whole family sits down to eat at five o’clock when the dad gets home from work, no exceptions, except for maybe party night, which is Friday night, and the family eats pizza in front the tv while watching a movie (this is a time when “age-appropriate” was not a concept in our parents’ heads), maybe a scary one or one where they show boobs.
I wanted this house so bad, but I couldn’t afford it, and I never could get such a family anyway.
Instead, I had once ceramic blue loveseat that Mammy had given me from her vast knickknack collection, and two Glamour Gals dolls who sat on it, talking about their families who were never home but would be soon. And at least they had each other, best friends.
I know how times have changed me. No way do I want such a big house, even if I could afford it—too many places to hide or get lost. My family of five and no dogs (except for the downstairs tenants’ dogs) and two cats and 34 snails and some houseplants—we love our kitchen where our dining table is snug in the corner facing the window overlooking the alley. I’m happy I never got that dollhouse cause there’s no room for it in our house now anyway.
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Houses, Homes #2
Our house was a camouflage and plaid, flannel, cotton, polyester forest we’d hide in, get wrapped up in with one big smoky embrace.
Our basement was the fun cave—Mom only ventured down there to dust on Saturday mornings, but otherwise, it was my and Dad’s hangout spot, our unperceived sanctuary where I’d sit on the yellow plastic saucer chair, and he’d enjoy rocking on the creaky plaid recliner he picked up from some rich person’s garbage in Camp Hill.
We watched football games together, mostly Penn State versus some inferior team, and we would take bets on who was gonna win. One dollar. He’d give me one dollar even when I lost the bet. That was my kind of gambling.
Dad would doze on and off during the game, but I was wide-wide-wired on the unlimited bottomless 2-liter bottles of Pepsi I was allowed to drink, and when the rocking of the plaid recliner slowed to a stop, I’d stare at the faux velvet mural that hung on our faux-wood wall. Some deer in the snowy forest. A buck in the foreground staring straight at me, the way deer always stare when they sense their predators in their space, those damn stares bore so hard into my skull that I know that’s the only weapon they have at a chance for survival. And I’d stare back and tell them they’re not going to get shot but look into the wall hanging anyway for a hunter in camouflage, a miniature version of Dad on the first day of the season, but I was never meant to find him, was I?
Just when, maybe, I thought I could spot the hunter behind a tree, something would stir. The buck still stared as Dad got up to fix the stove. The creak of the chair. The creak of the woodstove door. The clang of the poker. The thump of the clean-cut logs hitting the tiny red coals, and what I imagined was the cock and release of the rifle somewhere, and the deer going limp on the ground, turning the snow a cherry red, just like that.
Camouflage and plaid were what Dad wore the day before he died. It’s what I wished he’d worn in the casket and into the fire at the crematorium, just like we used to live, always, wrapped up in one big smoky embrace.
and this belief began when I was a little girl,
and my mammy gave me connect-the-dots activity books
to keep me busy, and I did them so fast, starting at 1
and finding 2 as quick as I can, then 3, making fast lines,
never any gaps, all the way to the highest number, the peak,
the last point, maybe 47 or 53
but never above 60, ever, I think too many dots for the drawer
to put in between the lines, then onto the next page I go
until I do the whole book so I can
surprise Mammy by how fast I am connecting the dots.
Now wait, I’m thinking, back here at age 38,
why would the artist think there would be too many
dots if the number is beyond 60?
Of course, I didn’t know at age 5 that
a line has (or can have) an infinite amount of dots,
or that if I wanted to, I could have made
curves, squigglies, curlicues between dots,
and I’d still get the picture but it’d be more
interesting. I also didn’t know back then,
but yes, I’m realizing now,
is that even if there are gaps,
or if the lines aren’t straight, or if you happen
to miss a dot or go to the wrong dot,
you can still get the picture and it will still
mostly make sense (sometimes it won’t, not completely
or right away, but it will eventually), so yes,
there’s still a picture you can see.
I believe in Connect-the-Dots like other people believe
in Heaven and Hell (both are taught at a young age, yes?).
But I’m not so fast about it anymore.
Connecting the dots takes time, and sometimes
I redraw the lines over and over until there are holes in the paper,
until I can understand Why. And I still end up with a picture
I can see, a picture I can show.
I feel my unconsciousness works its way
into the predawn darkness,
the time between or the slash dividing,
connecting night and morning,
leading into the too long too short day.
Coffee, tea—allowed in this in-between,
alcohol—no, unless the night is still on from a few hours ago
and the push to prolong the inevitable is the mission of a lonely heart.
My mission: to claim the silence for myself.
This in-between is my territory now, fleeting and fickle as it always is.
Death. how does it conform to life?
do we take a path not taken, obscuring the journey we had made? or do we make it
easy for our loved ones to be able to find us
and ascribe memory to the loss?
myself, I am lucky. I think:
words, books, volumes—posterity is easy, perhaps to a damning fault.
could it be that one hundred and fifty years from now, my great-great-
granddaughter will try to find me and miss
all the signs and clues that are too obvious to me now in this life?
there will come a time when the battery will run low, and
there will be no way to charge or back-up, and she
will have to draw pictures in the dust that settled, and my memory
will be at her mercy, her will,
her whim, her beck-and-call.
blue plastic bowl, ashen earth blue,
like a gray blanket thrown over a new day,
holds three smooth stones destined
for decoration in water lapped up by cat tongue
beyond cat lips. I watch her drink,
and I wonder about my next reincarnation
that my mother constantly warned me about
as I grew up and perceiving myself to be so alone.
“What you do not finish eating will be waiting
for you when you die—rotting and full of maggots.
You will eat what maggots eat, and you will eat the maggots too.”
every day, three times a day, these words were said to me,
ending each meal just as ritualistically as the blessing I whispered
right before my first bite.
I never saw maggots in the flesh, however, until I was 14 years old,
and I’d seen and heard too much by then
to care about religion and afterlife anymore.
until today, this moment, when I wonder about such things
as I sit and sip my cold coffee,
wondering how and if I could someday, maybe,
come back to life as a cat, to be cared for
by someone like me.
Her favorite color, if she were forced to name one, was brown. Plain brown.
Or maybe, on the third Friday of every month, gray—gray with an A,
Not grey with the exotically European E.
Breakfast: dry toast with a glass of water, room temperature.
Her kind was never meant to reproduce,
Except through poetry
of perhaps the existential variety.
Woman whose name begins with
M or J or both,
writes a letter to no one,
meaning, she's writing a letter to herself,
something she may or may not keep but will eventually be discarded of anyway because it's too quiet to be made curious.
It is an imaginary letter to an imaginary person she would like to be her friend.
I changed the cat's food from dry chicken to wet tuna, and she liked it at first. But it didn't agree with her. I should have known better than to change it.
If you think of it some time, please visit. I'd love to show you my marble collection.
--composition in progress--