Ramadan Day 25 – Childhood Home

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“Where can a story end? If it arrives from nowhere.” – BH Fairchild

 

*

 

My father went to our backyard

when I was nine and said, both hands

round his waist, let’s build a

pond. Would you like that Serena?

 

*

 

How many miles are you from home?

Can you count distance by the quarters

left behind in a phone booth? Or pages?

Can you count clouds, silkworms, and

mulberry leaves, and in two weeks

mourn the passing of hundreds?

 

*

 

Somewhere back there I hold one thought

the only thing that ever belonged to me

was the way the sun glinted golden off

the yellow wallpaper, gilding my tears,

Splotchy was dead, that comfort of knees

being in bed, pillow, able to run my hands

along multi-grained speckles of wall.

 

*

 

We dug the trenches pretending we were

at war and acted as if the narrows were

bunkers, but when he turned the faucet

on, the water rushing from the green hose,

salad bowls our buckets and whistled

while we worked, acting as if dwarves, not

children, our slip-and-slide castle, he coated

the sides with glaze. It looked finished and like

a pale yellowed worm with cracks in it, but

to me, in my dotted swimsuit, it was childhood.

 

*

 

I confess that I’m unlike many writers I know.

I write nearly every story, every poem

in varied locales, sometimes draped over

a couch, sometimes butt-boned on a bench,

I wrote a poem once in full view of a bridge

in Prospect Park that saw me

and did not move.

 

*

 

Jill McCorkle gave a craft talk today –

 

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”

 

The sound of a mother’s voice, notwithstanding

the relationship you have with your mother, is

a sound imprinted for all your life; she hears

the interstate and the ocean, remembers a boy

who curled for a nap in the dark hearing the

background noise of the register in his parent’s

Chinese restaurant comfort him, tied to the beginning

Seamus Heaney’s local roads, her daughter watched

television in her womb, and taken aback, she believes.

 

“We don’t see the connecting filament until

the sparks appear and we wonder where it comes

from. Are you more like a skunk or a turtle?”

 

*

 

I’m making friends with a writer at Sewanee:

I’ll call her Frenchie from Washington, for short.

What Jill said about those childhood memories

really sinking in, this part of our brain that

instinctively comforts us – I spend so much time

worrying about how my kids will wake up,

what will they smell? what will they see?

Frenchie’s eyes round the bend toward the West.

 

*

 

Even after Splotchy, the koi (mine), eaten by

raccoons, as were my sister’s and brother’s

fish, I reminisced for him, how alive his tail

water flipped in droplets swished the surface,

the bob of his mouth, nibbled fingers, how

he hid underneath the water lily, waved a slow

back and forth, waiting for me to come or go.

 

*

 

Overheard from Jill McCorkle:

 

Stanley Kunitz once said, “The remarkable thing that

I feel despite the aging of the body…of my body

is that the spirit remains young. It is the same spirit

I remember living with as a child.”

 

Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain”

– “They is. They is. They is.”

 

Like a skunk that when it gets angry, sprays its words

Or like a turtle, do you hide your words?

 

If you keep asking my mother for her address,

she will give you her childhood home.

 

*

 

Our cat Christina would stealthy and poise

in a flash biting golden fur on her belly, one

ear cocked for the cry of mee-mee, which

meant food, one eye cocked toward the koi

pond lined in flagstone, my father’s hands

lined with the fine dust of shale, bricked

piece by piece, the way his heart fit like

the odd kitchen tile, snugged in that

final space, dinner, my mother’s voice.

 

***

 

 

 

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