This parcel is so old
no one will survey it—
I don't know
where the lot ends
and another begins.
Along the north fence,
the stream wandered off
like my great grandmother
who never found her way home.
All I know is that the property
is shaped like a piano,
the wide curve, then the yard
tapers into a tangle of ivy, the fig tree
the third leg of the instrument.
Perhaps someone will play me a tune.
Dry rot, termites, mold—
the back hoe reaches to the high dormer
and rattles the cabin.
Claw-footed tub, furnace shaped
like a Victrola, staircase
leading nowhere. In two days
everything's packed up
and raked down the drive.
Even the house's shadow
is folded up and tossed
into the back of the truck.
This new house, made of paper,
casts no shadow. For a year, I lived
in a scroll of blue lines,
double lines, and the dotted line
on which to sign. Then the fine ribs
and spine of fir, the egrets gliding
through walls of light,
curtains of fog billowing.
I ended up preferring
the drawing of the house,
the outline of the bare struts,
not the solid walls.
After all these years,
I’ve finally understood
the house can’t protect me,
not the double-pane windows,
the thick puffed-up insulation.
One day, like a huge ark
the house will float down
Corte Madera Creek
to Richardson’s Bay
with its slick rainbow of oil.
At Village Music
My son loved to wind the old Victrola,
lower the needle, listen for the hiss,
then watch the shellacked grooves whirl.
He knew all the labels--Specialty, Blue Bird, Sun...
By the time he was five, he'd dug in
to the roots of rock, R&B, doo-wop,
Lightnin' Hopkins, and most of all, Don & Dewey:
My heart in my hand...you don't understand.
Now they sway in front of him,
two ordinary black men
well past middle age: That's why I'm leavin' it...
they hold the silence an extra beat, then another,
the packed room hushed. A few women
in the back fan themselves. In the heat,
the guitars stall, the amps buzz, while the sun
slants through the streaked windows, and dust motes
float in the vinyl air—up to you, you decide…