The rooms are empty now,
and yet the floors and walls are steeped in memories
How do we keep them?
How can we ferry them across the generations?
I want to salvage what I can,
before the doors lock behind me
I want to scour the house for some good thing
I want to savor that smell
I want to retrieve some small ember
of the warmth that once gathered here
I want to drink from the family well
But the house has grown cold
The well is almost all dried up
The life has been eking out of the cracks,
dispersing across the country,
gathering in other homes,
digging other wells.
The rooms are empty now
Only relics remain
So what can I ask for?
What will I receive?
Is there anything left for someone so far away?
Something that will smuggle out of the country
a lifetime worth of trips
to Grandma’ and Grandpa’s house?
The bricks and mortar are staying put
The foundation strong but immobile
too burdensome for transport to another context
Anyway, left to someone I hardly know… so
I want the crawl space in the unfinished basement,
That small clearance, where only children can stoop,
and with a scoop of imagination,
create a stage for heroes
with socks for skin and hands as bones.
Please, just bag it up, this tiny magic place,
and send it overseas,
And I shall grow from it another house,
with soul, and spirit,
and living, breathing, pulsing stones
No chairs, no tables, no rugs or cupboards,
No beds, no paintings, no pillows or covers
none of these will fit in my check-in luggage.
Every item too big, too cumbersome, too heavy a load,
May I just have the alligator moat?
That space between the beds upstairs,
which flowed with crock infested, rushing waters
Just throw them in a little boat,
those make-believe reptiles snapping at our legs,
as we jumped from one mattress to the other.
And let them rough it on the Ocean Seas,
until they find their way back home to me
The table is taken
The plates are packed
The glasses gone
So, may I have the wet twinkle in my uncle’s eyes?
Can I have the belly laughter that rolled
through the dining room?
I’d like to have Grandma’s soft, lilting, reading voice,
and Grandpa’s raspy, enquiring interjections
I want to keep the stories
of younger years and days of old
And if someone else should claim the silver
and the gold
I want to have the tales of sorrow
tales of sorrow gone untold.
When the shelves are empty
and the closets bare
When the lights are off
and the fire has burned out
When the house lay dark
and cold as a tomb
And there’s nothing left
but the elephants in the room
Let me take that invisible herd,
that has been there as long as I remember
I’ll slip them past customs unseen,
fly them to a far off place in the sun
Give them each a name
and shoot them one by one
Now I’m standing in the kitchen
It is time to go
and deep down I know
I will never see her again
I kiss her lips and squeeze her hand
and fight the water in my eyes
So much time, so much distance,
so many worlds between us
How quickly we run out of time and things to say
and no parting words redeem us
But I am not leaving empty handed
I’ve smuggled something precious in my carry-on
Something that I have received all through my years,
though I live so far away
and never even asked for it
So now at home, when it gets dark,
and I’m all tied up
and tangled in my scars
I look to her faithful, humble prayers
collected like fireflies
in these three blue jars.