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Maxine Scates

It wasn't much, did not yield, wrapped
its arms around us, broke us, wind whistling
and sun buckling. Here someone loved the curve
of a wall, the years made us love it.

That one was permanent, now we were part of town.
Our visitors arrived and lay in the grass,
one of the cats climbed into a paper bag
and we wondered if that crackling was autumn.
Shelter, not even a pillow to rest my head.

My long lost uncle lives here. He expects
no visitors; he has no furniture. Even now
he wanders through the empty rooms, tracing
this child's handprint on the wall, something
happened here, something could again.

A little bit of the mid-west, the sod hut
peering out at eye level over the plains,
cape cod, clapboard, the memory of so many
storms. It reminds me of my childhood, when
trees were important, the dreamy view through
certain windows clotted by branches, the
shady summers when shade was all that mattered.

This one held us up when love was difficult,
buoying us above the city it didn't ask
for much. Our friends carried theirs
through the streets early in the morning.
They left behind bulbs, bushes and front steps
in search of a new foundation. Our parents
moved to something smaller.

If these walls could talk: my mother and
her mother and her mother, layers of peeling
paint and absent picture frames. It was empty
its windows broken and the carpet covering
the stairs worn thin and not worth carrying away.
Moss grew on the dark side. The house stood here
firmly in the sun's path.


Prairie Schooner, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Winter 1981/82), pp. 39-40