Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Fall 2007  Vol. 6 No. 2


Chris Abani
Victoria Chang
Michael Chitwood
Keith Ekiss
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc
Beth Ann Fennelly
Raza Ali Hasan
James Hoch
Cyan James
Julia Johnson
Larry Levis
Khaled Mattawa
Timothy O’Keefe
Catherine Pierce
Jon Pineda
John Poch
Austin Segrest
Louie Skipper
Ron Smith
Robert Thomas
Joshua Weiner
Lesley Wheeler
Charles Wright

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The Old House With Thee

In dream a promise of water, relief drifts like a log.

The sink where I washed my face.

Here, rage slipped its oily hands into me. A knife to my brother imagining spilled guts.

I am awake now. 

Some day I will bring hammers and begin the destruction,

The canvas streaked with crimson songs, weddings, smoke rising from the blind musicians’ clarinets.

The neighborhood informant snooping around. 

And here my mother’s visitors sat.

One wept to her story, a beating, a summer in Alexandria.

Sweat and the dancing thighs’ jelly shake.

Some day, a bulldozer smashing through walls.


A phantom may simply claim the old house, in the name of justice. 

The testicles he electrocuted, the nails he pulled off the disappeared, will be his proofs. 

Come to me my patched dreams and shield me.

Mother, and I, her scribe who knew when to drop his pen and leave.

Sold now.

Another room, another floor.  Plant a plum tree where the date palm stood.


Years ago, not far from sirens and street corner prostitutes, I meddle with the window, the screen fragile, but stubborn-gnarled.

I jump in, certain the neighbors will not call the police.

We smoke a cigarette, that room with orange walls and deep blue velvet curtains. The squalor, the estrangement. She dozing on my arm.

Mobile, Alabama, the first sleep of love.


I walk the old house, after many stops, many stamps, and the dry air of hotel rooms.

There’s beauty in that avowal, the future a washline, the white sheets stiff with starch, the disinfected blankets’ metallic reek.

On television, Post-Wall porn, the same couple, sweet nothings dubbed in Turkish, Italian, Portuguese. The infomercial bazaar of quacks and seers.

You didn’t care to know how sunrise streamed through the south-facing window. I’m now in the no-house-at-all.

The porn couple smoke a cigarette, and an old world visits the room

(a breeze, a gust from the AC vent).


The house we dreamed of, a double dream.

Your seascapes and lighthouses and my impossible abode.


To you, it said nothing, the sound of the windblown branches brushing against the roof.

What made me see imagination going slack in its harness?

The sofa here?

Whose mother will hang on which wall?


Eavesdropping, that’s where I’d heard that the husband had spent a month barhopping in Alexandria. Sweat and the dancing thighs. Venereal disease.

I walk the old house.

Onward until self-possession breaks into our lives.

Yesterday, two decades since Mobile.  


I kick at broken stones, wipe dust off my forehead.

A month or two, concrete columns rising, new trees casting shadows on the street.

I help them bring in furniture, hand them the keys. 

And for years, I visit unannounced, see them languid in their nightclothes or huddled by a kerosene heater.

They show me a girl’s name etched on a closet door, a loose tile on the flat roof for a pack of cigarettes I hid.

A ghost of the past snooping around, visiting its grave.  

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