Interior Architecture

posted in: Poem | 0

It’s almost meaningless to say the house was bulldozed,
that house with its pale yellow clapboard exterior, deceptive somehow.
White shutters with red shapes, rotting window boxes.
It was a place that a child could not invite friends to,
it was a prison of artificial walls, the stacks of newspapers, old mail, the boxes
of who knows what, the careful stepping of the child through those rooms.
The child didn’t notice the careful steps, how they became part of her.
This is not surprising, this is how learning happens, without noticing.
The crowding happens that way too, slowly. It feels worse
when someone else sees it, like the man fixing the furnace
looking at the girl, now ten, and she at him, wordlessly.
And she imagined pity, but those were her own thoughts talking.
What passed between them was clear-eyed, steady, indecipherable.

It was decades later that the house was bulldozed
by the buyer of the land, after the tax foreclosure. There are likely records
to prove it, permits and the bills of a contractor, filed somewhere.
One can even drive by where the house used to be and see a better house,
the yard almost filled with its oversized footprint. It’s nicer,
the father of the little girl says to his grown up daughter,
and the pleasure that tinges his sentence estranges her.

But the house is inside the child and the grown up woman. She sits in the study
of her new house in another state and feels the old house in her.
Looking out the window at night, the street light a few yards off
evokes it, the dirt driveway with a long, narrow swath of yard on the other side.
She remembers her mother telling her about watching the bulldozer, how the new owner
threatened to call the police if she touched her piles of stuff, now littering the yard,
while neighbors sifted. The daughter knows her own stuff was in there too and that all of this is true,
but the house still frames her eyes, those crumbling shutters.
Looking out of her window at night, she feels herself within it.
She still walks carefully, without thinking about it.
What is it that loss takes from us?


“Interior Architecture” was first published in Altered Scale.

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