House (The History of Us All) -- Donna de la Perriere

Chapter One

in the place where we live the sky is white
in winter stones blow up the shore
you grow up in your mother's house
in summer the air is heavy, palpable

sometimes it gets difficult to breathe


Chapter Two

vines cover trees, phone poles, deserted houses
you see them when you drive at night:
depthless spaces without trees or ground
shapes rising up against a dark screen


Chapter Three

we make up what we cannot remember
we no longer recall what is true


Chapter Four

your mother, as a girl, lived across the road from ghosts
your grandmother saved garbage, drew crosses over
the walls of the house

one of your uncles is crazy
he is tall, thin, ugly in a pitiful way
he thinks people want to murder him and are making signs with their hands


Chapter Five

at some point after your grandmother dies
the uncle lives alone in the house

you recall a car ride
also a bad afternoon when he backs one of the aunts into a corner of the kitchen
some time later relatives are informed that he
has allowed a group of people to live with him in the house
there is something about narcotics, the girls tell police he
tries to touch them when they sleep

for months these people return to and are removed from
the grandmother's house

when they finally leave, they steal or wreck everything


Chapter Six

during the summer you make trips to gather scraps
from what little is left at the grandmother's house

you drive into the country with your uncle
throughout the afternoon he places his hand on your lower back,
rubbing circles that arc wider and wider

you go to a cow pasture, once family burial ground,
but once there realize you have made a mistake:

the hill is overgrown and you can't read what is etched on the slabs
cows have trampled the stones that are left
most have long ago fallen in on themselves


Chapter Seven

your mother's house is brown, peels at the edges
even in winter the heat is weighty, visceral
every morning you wake to hear birds at the window—
their voices muffled, flute-like,
a language of children or lost people

it takes forever to believe that the dead are friendly


Chapter Eight

in winter you think of your mother's house
you can bring back some rooms, the light at certain times of day
also a globe and an iron flower that sat by the side table

what you can't seem to remember is how to get from one room
to another or the view from the windows
or where the doors were

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