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