A couple years ago, my dad, my brother, and I stopped by my dad’s childhood home on the outskirts of St. Louis. The brick and stucco home was larger than it had seemed in pictures, and in fact, larger than it had been when my dad left home over sixty years ago, the extra space a result of additions by subsequent owners. A Mr. Hendricks, the current owner, after a huffy moment in which he seemed put-upon by our unplanned visit, showed us the grounds. The meeting of a house’s occupants, between the original and incumbent, can be awkward. Especially unannounced.
Not only had the house grown since my dad last saw it—in the back, overlooking fields about which I’ve heard many stories, a sapling my dad can remember coming up through a knot hole in a bench had soared to a hundred feet or so. We felt suitably impressed by the change, the humble beginnings, the scope of a life. We thanked Mr. Hendricks for preserving the tree. We told him the kitchen addition looked good from behind the house. We accepted his offer of lemonade.
Inside, we talked about how layouts had been altered and not altered, how someone once got stuck in the laundry chute that used to be right here by the bathroom. Mr. Hendricks nodded kindly. We climbed some narrow stairs to see the attic, my dad intent on seeing what seemed like the least interesting space in the house. At the top of the stairs, on a dark, slanted piece of rough ceiling he found what he was looking for: the blurry but recognizable shape of a skull and crossbones that had been chalked or painted there by my dad in the 1930s.
All of the innocence and magical narcissism of childhood bloomed from that small, ghostly drawing. The sisters to whom my dad had surely made his statement of independence had both died, as of course had his parents, pets, and most of his friends. We stood, four men together, smelling the stuffy, timeless warmth of an attic in summer, inside the shape that had shaped the oldest of us. We sipped our lemonade and lingered there for a while.
Adam Love’s poem, “Bones of a Lamb,” seems to be, in part, an elegy to a house that has burned down, or to the deeper, more mysterious and personal losses that went with it. Richly textured lines and stunning imagery create a sense of great expansion in this enviable poem.
In “What would it take to make a city in me?” Donna Vorreyer leaps from a line by Robin Ekiss to imagine the houses within her. Vorreyer’s long couplets carry her poem with surges of creative energy that find the infinite in specificity.
A young speaker, her old Abuelita “with a beer in one hand and her unlit cigarette in the other” and the trailer that is the old woman’s house live at the center of “Tejas Visions,” flash fiction by Manuela Cain. Surreal and very real, Cain’s piece takes a multi-planed look at a struggling family in the Texas heat, where dreams and days entwine.
“Noises,” a short story by Joel Kopplin, offers an unsettling picture of a locked-away life. Kopplin captures the perspective of young Wyatt in terrifying and accomplished fashion—his realities and confusions and deprivations are woven into the seething sentences themselves. The way Wyatt’s house wavers between kingdom and prison resonates and repels.
Photo By: Paul Walker