Blueprint for Elegy

“The year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life.” ~ Thoreau

Of the now gone family home, what I remember
is how it was before it became a slightly more

expanded idea, the way some tables are smaller
before the extra leaves unfold to make room

for guests joining the holiday meal. Three small
dark rooms and an apron-sized kitchen, one closet

into which everything was stashed: brooms and dust
pans, tools, the bag of good rice. Pulling on window

sashes, you’d wish the perpetual rain didn’t so surely
seek out all the open seams. Thinking ahead to a time

when the plain wooden door we barred at night
with a beam could finally be replaced, you bought

a pair of ornate Chinese urns scrolled in brass
to flank the entrance. I can’t remember where

they are now, though I remember the year a staircase
was finally built to lead to the hope of an attic

extension— soft pinewood turned on a lathe, curves
that polished to a honey-colored gold under stress

though the steps led to nothing more than rafters
where stray birds nested and the wind blew in

breaths stippled by dust. For that was how we tried
to pin the future’s vague shape to the present:

by trial and error, by moving slowly from one rung
to the next, trying not to look back or down.


In response to Via Negativa: Tailor or sailor?.

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