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
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.
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
we want our love echoed back
an exact iteration of what we have tenderly crafted,
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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
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