THE VOICE OF HOME LEAVING A PLACE FOR THE VOICE OF TRAVEL
I'm home and the house is around me.
Clack and pitch of the radiator, refrigerator hum and clock ticking
in my room off the long hall with so many doors the plumber asked
which one gets me out of here?
lt's snowing outside and two boys leave their tracks on the sidewalk
as they run down the street.
If the phone rings I'm not going to answer it.
I live on Ashland at Arundel and there is no water out the window,
no ship, no mountain, no island, no landing.
The snow is falling at an angle, flakes this time like sugar sifted to fall
on the car tops, fence pickets, brick walls and roof turrets, limbs of the
oak and the elm trees. I let myself stand at the window and fall with it.
For years this nightmare in childhood: they are coming to board up the
windows of our house. I'll never get out.
On a dark day you need a light on to work in the afternoon.
To walk outside you need a heavy coat, boots, a hat, gloves and a muffler.
All these were piled and hung on a peg board at the back door. The house
I grew up in was crowded, not enough room for everybody.
Leave my things alone.
When my mother had cancer her sister gave her the Twenty-third Psalm
handwritten on a white piece of paper. They took us to wave to her,
the white face way up in the hospital window.
Holding the language, carrying it.
A room of my own.
Old clothes, colored boxes of tea lined up over the stove, cupboard full
of spices, nails in the walls to hang things, painting by my sister, picture
of his grandmother, books on the shelves, books beside the bed, books inside
the closet, books in the sack he brings home. Something for dinner.
She stayed home to look at herself in the mirror.
A world about housecleaning: I hate it and I hate smudges, crumbs and dirty
He loves me.
All the things laid out--oranges, almonds, white narcissi, red candles,
fresh chives in a little clay pot at the window.
The clean house, the anger at all the things I have to do before I can write.
I put a picture over my desk: a woman with a baby in her arms is floating
in a black sky streaked with roses. On the ground a kerchiefed woman throws
her arms up as if she's thrown the madonna into the sky and is keeping her
there. The men stand in a line with their moustaches, their arms crossed.
You spoke of a clearing and I wonder if I'm in it.
Wood pile across the street. A landscape that is there all the time but I
don't take it in except peripherally. The way we live. Peripherally. And
it works this way--when I stop, when I do see, when I begin taking things in
I find them already inside me--everything at once--it's me, not the
Nobody knows, a voice says. A voice says coming for, carry me, trouble seen,
Putting up, gathering, storing and arranging--first speech, utterance,
naming, repeating. I make myself a cup of tea.
Will you be home for dinner?
Patricia Kirkpatrick published Learning to Read with Meadow Press in 1982, and has work forthcoming in Ironwood. She is currently writing non-fiction in St. Paul, Minnesota.