Oct/Nov 2009 Poetry Special Feature

The House on Gypsy Ridge

by Brent Fisk

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The House on Gypsy Ridge

My grandmother's moods turned liquid,
black as the ink of squids. Chameleon in a nightgown,
she'd scramble eggs for one too many plates.
His empty chair would rock her.

Cobwebs in the cupboards of her heart,
embers of the woodstove, the smoke
that spins away when a candle is put out.

The house held together
with toothpaste spit, the mud from our boots,
the spindly legs of silverfish. She teetered
atop the step ladder, shook the husks
of ladybugs from the globes of ceiling lamps.

She'd wring the grime from the rags of his shirts
and wipe the dust from lamp cords and table legs.
She wiped our faces raw and swept the darkness
down the cellar stairs. She beat the air
until it came out clean. The gutters could not contain
the steady grief of rain. She closed herself up tight
like a house she planned to leave.

When she loved us again, we thought it was a trick
of the light. Her hands steadied. She sang
to the roosting hens. She gave us heels of bread
for the sparrows. She bought a summer dress
and seasoned a new black skillet. She filled the hollow
of her empty bed with a curl of napping boys.
She dreamed of trilling frogs. She waved again at trains.


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