“The House of Me” by Al Rocheleau




This mansion of myself, come of bricks,
a portico, pick-up sticks, heavy misfortunes,
carpeted up-and-down stairwells of hope,
coats of blather and intrigue, intricate dormers
pointed to heaven, to the sullen hawk’s relief
(the eyed carrion or soon-to-be), windows
clear as birth-light, of oncoming calamity
and shuttered for such storms as can be seen
touched, felt like muslin or stiff canvas
on a hammock tree, divided from a world
by exterior glacial stones, Norse runes
Indian epitaphs, wind-chime’s leeward lean
leading to the open door, a sometime life’s
wiped-foot anteroom, its portraited halls.

In one wing a nursery, emptied of importances,
the tears of pneumonia, the bruised eloquence
of late, encumbered appearance on a mother,
the darlingness of sister who painted the child
a lipsticked gypsy girl for his first Hallow’een,
and a room tiered with bars for rolling sleep,
to stop the monster of a bed’s underneath—
the packages, packs of soldiers fighting wars
across a floor of silence, struck with points
appended to issues swabbed of alcohol,
the ice-daggers in their melting madness
sweated to the awful drone of Friday nights,
the older ones fleeing to their head-lights,
ballroom chandelier swinging like a gallows.

I grew into it, and additions were startling;
the conservatory filled with Lydian modes
and scales, rock and ragas, blues, Basie;
in basement den I’d countenance Thomas Wolfe
and plan my sojourn on the road of crazies,
wrapped the road round me only to return
like unopened mail, to the bed of no roses,
womb of worst hurts, carved daisies,
a mailbox number on a less traveled road,
waiting to escort you on my run of luck
into this domain, mistress of it and of me,
salve in the broad bath of a redeeming,
beauty that expounds its quiet grace,
the sorrow of a battered face, leaving.

Years of children sculpt into softest marble—
relief is everywhere, sheen on the railings,
song in the garden of asters, symmetry of slate,
walks of ever-afters in our reverie,
the years of a refurbishing cast from image
to a real, live estate this breathing building,
this generation assured of its corrections,
drywall’s fall that frees all buried-alive
to love, to sleep among the brass and blooms
in bedroom of our dawns, delivering decades,
patrician and deliberate days released
like sighs into screens of a summer veranda,
the swinging lilt of permanence all but assured
and then, comes calling, the collector’s answer.

The address accounts to forlorn corridors
where emanates the Department of Lost Chances.
Children, older, file down the driveway;
you surrender, and I close off the sanctuary
of our adoration, the finest of all rooms
within my heart and perfect as a tomb
sealed with wax and wisteria, and move
the metaphor to a place on another street,
where vendors hawk and smoke of card games flows
from upstairs windows, where the evening paper
folds to that column-inch of arrived future:
House for Sale, choice location, spacious
and priced for acquisition, fine for such
as know their craft’s ambition— call for details.


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