Home is the work of odds and ends, unseen labor and holding relics.

I rearrange objects and paint walls,

but leave some of the alterations from previous occupants in place.

Choices made by ghosts reflect my sensibilities as well,

(I can live with the pink tile in the bathroom).

Comingling what I inherit and what is unquestionably my own,

Home feels much like a body.

I question what is in the blood

and what is from the stars?

 

Everything I make in these walls is consumed 

like stiches that were well spaced,

but the thread never knotted to the garment;

the tug of time pulls my work apart.

I can’t give enough to those I love

and I can’t keep enough for me.

I place a child’s drawing on the wall,

and watch the sun fade the lines.

Which of the outgrown artifacts do I save

To remind of me of the spell parenting held me in?

 

Pack and unpack, 

Home returns again.

Yet, the actual structure of a house seems to function

as a cookbook for how to make a life quickly,

a series of notes left by phantoms.

They were once human, raised two children,

and left me with an avocado green kitchen and a bottlecap collection.

‘you are most welcome--Memento mori--

leave some piece of your heart for those who follow.’

 

Imperfect Care

desperately

we want our love echoed back

an exact iteration of what we have tenderly crafted,

extended

 

walls absorb our words

and form a silence

holding our sentiments in plaster

within a scaffolding not of our own design

 

many gestures of care

within a container that holds us go unnoticed.

dishes clank as they are washed,

continually chipping

 

what fills the cracks

in ceramic bowls

giving emphasis to the places where I know something will break?

there is an ecosystem of decay

living within the fractured surface.

Matriarch 

 

I used my body as a house,

to grow myself into a mother.

Giving nourishment that was eaten, felt, or read,

protecting something vulnerable: 

alive or an idea.

 

A wombless fertility emerges.

Mothering potential within others 

until as Mother I shepherd along new mothers 

sculpted out of words.

My fledglings have razors for teeth.

 

I stack: laundry, experiences, and time into columns.

Pedestals of labor

pay homage to the work of mothers before me.

Those I bore by flesh or language

become my long arm that reaches beyond a lifetime.

Housing of Grief

There is a smell that buildings acquire

When empty of life.

A fragrance that is still and heavy

which amplifies the reality that a house will lose many people 

during its lifetime.

 

Like afternoon light in autumn that streams through the windows 

And illuminates floating dust particles,

the building gives structure to the quick hum

of human lives that pass through, 

before the walls themselves dim to decay 

Your Home/ To Me

Organizing trinkets and bric-a-brac on my dresser gave me a place of belonging as a child

The ceramic container made by my late father was my most valued possession. 

 

I still carefully arrange my mementos in each new place I live:

My father’s pottery, my children’s drawings, and the porcelain dragon my grandmother made

 

The last two times I moved, I carefully packed my childbirth manuals and fetoscope

I cherish these relics from my unassisted home births even though I will never need them again.

 

My friend Marianne constructed a cosmos in her living room

of small marble sculptures and drawings she had made

 

I recognized her past, present, and future in the items placed around her home:

A picture of her in her 20’s next to a recent award from the historical society

 

In her kitchen she saved notes from my children next to pictures of her grandchild

It was clear who we were to each other through this gesture

 

She began to have an anxiety about the state of her house 

Which I didn’t understand because her home was so well maintained.

 

I failed to see that when she was talking about her house

She meant her body

 

After her death when going through her home

My eldest child wrote a farewell poem for Marianne’s house and placed it the dining room table 

What Remains

On the harvest gold sofa,

I watch rain slip down the window pane

 

The glass is cold where my finger touches it

the heat from my hand leaves a mark that looks like breath

 

As I pull my hand away, the breath evaporates from the glass

what remains is the almost invisible smudge of my finger print

 

My heart is a glass room,

with barely visible traces of those that I have loved.

Artifacts of Affection

Sue’s green leather sofa was cool to the touch

perfect for napping and dreaming

she was not just an adult who believed in me, she was giving me a place to stay 

 

upon my last visit to Marianne’s home 

I sat on her emerald corduroy couch, gathering the remnants of our conversations

finding, in her absence, that the walls of the home generously held her wisdom 

 

when Kat’s son was born, we took turns holding him on her sage sofa 

I relive the memory over and over to see the way the light moved on the walls

illuminating dust particles in the air, hoping to remember his newborn baby smell

 

the green couches belonging to each friend become a singular place in my memory

a  fiction where I find the shape of a love letter that I am composing

about my life and the friends who became kin

 

we should all be so lucky as to have a green couch

an artifact from the place where we made room for another

 

How We Talk To Each Other

who is ghost to

to whom?  

neither of us knowing the other.

 

is the space between

life and death

really so vast?

 

as though pottery is a telephone,

I hold the object,

and you pick up on the other line.

 

the connection on the phone

works just fine;

what you’re hearing is a generation gap.

 

905 Second Street

 

in the shed, crooked nails left to be hammered out 

tell me of that person’s life during the Great Depression

 

I found a wooden block in there with “be my valentine” carved on it

I kept it, because its clumsiness felt familiar

 

under the house my husband found a gas pipe plugged with a wine cork

I guess this is how people solve problems

 

when I painted over the wallpaper in the bedroom 

I could see that there was a second layer of wallpaper beneath it

 

our relationship with homes is symbiotic

the building shelters our bodies, and we slow the house’s demise which comes long after us

 

Disolve

 

in all the excess 

some items assert themselves immediately 

 

the  ceramic lamp my father made

sits next to my bed

acting as a sun

with a gravitational pull

my dresser becomes an orbiting planet

 

other dated items

become discarded

only in time do I understand their significance

at which point it is too late

to reclaim my grandmother’s lamp 

by the harvest gold couch in her living room

 

I find the couch 

a million times over again in thrift stores 

but the lamp is gone

the universe of her small home

dissolved

 

Held

vessels that once held food and drink

now hold the nourishment of memory.

what appears empty

 is filled with all the ideas

of you that we can’t let go of. 

it is like you are with us,

in a piece of river clay

and the current of time cannot wash it

from our grasp.

 

Swimming In Memory

without my glasses I swim in memory

finding things in my home

 

mistaking my child’s sweater on the sofa for a sleeping cat

not a notable error

 

faces don’t seem to lose detail

or perhaps looking upon a face is just remembering