Was a pair of trousers
With five pockets:
Strewn, wrinkled, gouged
Empty when Mom first told us
She was leaving it
To live with her new husband—
Her third boyfriend ever.
I felt guilty for feeling nothing
When she called
Yelling to come pick up all of the shit
I didn’t need to carry anymore—
The stuff she asked me to hold
While she nailed family portraits
On walls of sand
And needed someone to fight with—
Someone who reminded her of Dad—
When her tears, and his absence,
Melted them away.
The grudge that weighed heavy still on her shoulders
Even after she gave the landlord all of Dad’s bullets,
My uncle, all of his 90’s porno VHS tapes,
And Goodwill, all of the furniture he collected—
Discarded by other families—
To furnish the house he never bought her.
We abandoned the shell we no longer wanted:
Five doorways to a hallway the exact dimensions of a door,
The room within a room;
The house within a house;
The mother within the wife within the woman
That looked sad even when she smiled.
Void of heat as her refrigerator,
Its white glow filled my hungry belly;
The cool breeze strolled hand-in-hand
With the droning fan motor on my chubby face,
Picturing the types of food
That would go well on empty glass shelves
Licking my lips to the gray scent of empty cold.
It was my haven on long, summer nights
When we went to sleep as soon as the sun did
To save on electricity as two fans machined
Tepid air exhaled out of four hungry mouths.
At that elementary age, I always wondered
What it would be like to die in my sleep
As I closed my eyes
And I prayed for food,
And a Dad, and blamed myself for Mom having neither,
For not praying hard enough
Because how could God desert
People who saved what little they had
When there was nothing left
From Mom’s paycheck—
Nothing accumulated, everything lost?
How empty and small it looked
And how naked I felt standing there
When I returned to see what was left of me,
What was left to remember of what we had forgotten.
All I found was the scent of linden tea,
Her drink of choice when she was alone.
It wasn’t that I never liked the house,
Even when it smelled of fresh paint and carpet,
Walls white and smooth before Dad
Started bruising his hands through them.
Or that I hated it because it was haunted
With our dead selves—
The hiding, the shame, the lack of warmth,
The bonemeal of nostalgia
Floating as fibers in the evening sun,
Without the violence, without the pain
To make us a family strong again—
The problem was that she had made it her home.