Old bottles piled up in the hillside
under a litter of leaves,
brown, clear, green, and one,
that wonderful deep blue of Saratoga.
Strewn among them,
rusted metal cans, jagged rake teeth,
indeterminate pieces of plastic,
rotted cloth, an old leather shoe
crawling with worms.
They shouldn’t be here,
and so they are going,
carted in milk crates
to the public dump.
It’s been a year of deaccessions,
starting with two floods in the city
caused by upstairs neighbors
overflowing their bathrooms into ours.
The renovations went on for months
and in their midst came Climex lectularius,
that human scourge,
lodging in the cracks and crevasses
of our habitation,
forming a colony that fed on us at night,
so light its weight could scarcely be felt,
its bite a plague and misery.
All of our belongings had to be
examined, sanitized, fumigated--
sofas, rugs, chairs, and carpets,
bed frames and mattresses,
even telephone jacks
and electrical outlets.
Art was taken off the walls and treated,
clothes and linens cleaned and packed away,
closets, dressers, desks, cabinets emptied,
shelves cleared of everything,
as if we were moving.
We were like pioneers camping out
in our own lives,
with two changes of clothes,
underwear, a coat, and shoes,
computer, cell phone, and purse.
The elm seeds whirled like dervishes
in great gusts of an April wind.
The music of the Aeolian harp
was like a great vibration
echoing through my heart
as, perched high on a ladder,
I sorted through books
and other belongings:
what to part from? what to keep?
In the beginning
she was flesh of my flesh.
All her growing was growing apart.
A multitude of children
have disappeared into the dark.
Sometimes I miss the feel
of her soft little hand in my palm,
four fingers curled around one of mine.
Her eyes alone unchanged from childhood--
their crystalline look of concentration,
one blue iris with a fleck of brown.
Climbing a column of air,
the yellow butterfly fluttered
like a ribbon in the breeze,
while orange poppy blossoms
fell soundlessly to earth,
and the hill rose like a shield,
leaning its dark shadow over us.
In the corner of the garden
we found the perfect spot
for the damask rose “Celsiana,”
but when we dug, we hit a boulder.
I said, “Let’s plant somewhere else.”
“No,” she disagreed, “we’ll find a way.”
For two hours we dug around it,
but couldn’t get it to budge.
With a plank, we made a lever.
The two of us stood on one end
and bounced up and down
and finally felt it dislodge.
It took two planks and the two of us
working all day to dig it out:
there, at last, unearthed,
a rock the size of a coffee table.
Two women, one aging and one old--
we gaped in awe of what we’d done.
With patience, forbearance, and a stubborn will,
almost any obstacle can be made to yield.
She taught me to trust myself to find a way;
she taught me to look for it close at hand.
In the rock’s place grows the sturdy rose,
whose soft pink blooms and golden stamens
delight our summers.
The rock remained, too big to take away;
transplanted ferns now shelter in its shade.
All afternoon before the rain,
I clipped the dead hostas’ withered stems
and raked out piles of dead leaves from the beds.
Wet and chill, as if a cloud had sunk to earth,
in the strangely muffled air of November,
I listened to the chirp of a hawk circling overhead.
My body bent to my labors; my mind wandered free.
Make room! More room!
Anne Whitehouse’s poetry collections include Blessings and Curses, The Refrain, Meteor Shower, and, most recently, Outside from the Inside (Dos Madres Press, 2020). Ethelzine published Surrealist Muse, her poem about Leonora Carrington, last year; her poem, Escaping Lee Miller, is forthcoming. She is also the author of a novel, Fall Love.