“I won’t talk about your wrongs…
They have no part in this.”
Cicero, Second Philippic
Don’t want to go back
on my word, be coy
like Cicero; make mention
where mention is due.
The grave of some great orator
lies buried under the stones
of our brick house. The ghost
misting up through the floorboards
isn’t real, I think, though it makes
a real house for kids’ games.
I am sick of all my old stories.
So I walk the snowbanks
to get home, so I take the train
summers to the end of the tracks,
each week an office building
on the highway and dead petunias
in stone planters. Don’t think
this is a love letter. I would rather write
the lines of my sister’s face
into the oak-tree sprawl
than walk by those fields again
and the chainlink fence.
What is missing there—a kind
of kept, which precedes clarity.
I, without love of the root.
What then is there to hold
in places? I don’t deny I walk
through towns until they fill me,
with the exhalations of a thousand
breathers in a thousand rooms.
Were I to close my eyes
I could become invisible.
On the east hills closer to the sky
rife with palm-trees and hailstones
human-sized I lean
over the balcony rail, still feel
the metal at my fingertips. Is that
what keeping means? The entrails
of some place sitting in the stomach
press their fingers against
my ribs. A list: airplanes banked
beside route 25, screaming-matches
Tuesday nights, eyes that won’t
meet, self-made negotiators, rooms
without doors, smell of smoke, weak
black coffee. TV in the low room.
Driveway so steep you could roll
off the edge of the east hills
and end up new. Sometimes, true,
we’d sit by the window and watch
hot air balloons rise over the far-off city,
mark them with the grease
of our foreheads pressed
against the glass. The adults
get wine-drunk and cheat at cards.
My body’s falling on the balcony
or in the driveway or halfway down
the walk to the corner-store, and in return
hits grasping heat and strange birdcalls
in human voices. Keep what you owe
to places in the soles of your shoes
and refuse the morning. I have not
been back again. What’s worse:
I have not been back again.
Written by Lucy Western
Artwork by Sandra Pratt “Winter Solstice”