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  Cover Issue 4 HOMECOMING

by KERRY HARTJEN
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A hundred layered years of bone-white paint

have been peeled away from its skin,

like scabs on the bare knees

of summer children.

 

The window screens have all been lost

or stolen by time and avoidance.

Not a single pane of lavender-tinted glass

remains to sparkle back the morning light.

 

The porch swing, handmade by our grandfather's father,

in which we would escape the earth's gravity

and sail to the moon hand-in-hand,

has collapsed like a dead thing.

It lies broken and flightless now,

mouldering among the purple-black remains of stink beetles,

the coffee-brown petrified mouse droppings,

the ancient faded newspapers and forgotten letters.

 

I tell myself

This cannot be saved,

that it must remain bound to the here and now

by its rusted chains, eternally wingless, unable to flee

this coagulation of memories and ghosts.

 

As I am, now.

As I have always been.

 

Surmounting the arthritic front steps

I skitter and slide across the skeletal

sagging sun porch, goosepimpling myself

at the scuttering sound of decaying leaves

that run from my clumping boots.

 

Before they can hide, they dissolve into dust,

filling the air with the scent of cinnamon, and rust,

and horses in the long ago rain

of my innocence.

 

This was my childhood, this house.

This box of wood and shingles,

of brick and nails.

This was my beginning,

my womb out of the womb.

 

To have lived within its embrace was a blessing.

To have left it behind, a curse,

a promise broken,

a dream unfulfilled,

an irredeemable betrayal.

 

What I sought to find Out There,

I can't remember.

 

What I left behind,

here within these walls,

within our woods,

 

I cannot forget.

 

Soon the men will come

with their machines

and their tools,

their cursing and laughing voices

and their stinking cigars.

 

They will come bearing the

full fury of not-knowing,

and not wanting to know.

 

They will do their work

as they must do.

 

They are not to be blamed.

 

Redeemable or not,

I will never abandon

this house again.

We will sit and talk together,

we two weary travelers,

in this final hour of waiting.

 

I will sit here on the porch

and count the years as heartbeats

until I hear the big black trucks

making the turn at the bottom of the hill.

 

They will not know I am here.

I doubt that they would care

or even notice one so insubstantial as I.

 

They will do their work,

as they must.

 

And I will be home

at last.

 

 

   
   

 

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Kerry Hartjen is now a published poet, a barely-published short-story writer, and a retired professional magician and clown who is coming home to writing after a lengthy diversion into making a living.

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