Life As A House
Searching the incarnations of these streets
you stop to stand in the door way of a house.
This is the closest you will ever come to time travel,
watching the motes fall through air that hasn't reached human lungs in decades
cutting through the sunlight that connects
scarred wooden floors to the rest of the world
floors now devoid
of the couch,
the accoutrements that once told you where you were.
They don’t live here anymore.
And you look like this.
Who you are is connected to all of it,
caught up in
things you don’t remember because you weren’t here yet.
. . . except that you were. . .
Maybe not in any of the sepia-toned photographs,
but you were here--
you were here in the ridge of a brow
the curled lock of hair
in his step
in her sleep
you were kinetic energy
you were waiting
in the bounce of the ball
the skip of the rope
in the ancient shoe leather that walked new over these floors.
Dreams raised curtains over these windows trying desperately to define the life they meant to have here
dreams so bright and strong that the surplus is carried still
on the tide that floods your vein
the electricity that leaps between synapses
we were supposed to be the fruition of those dreams.
And is it worth wondering
after all this time
after all these lives
--touch the door frame
trace the crack in the plaster
check the reflection in the glass--
will it hold
will it stand
will it last. . .
274 Words of Explanation More or Less
T.S. Eliot said that a poem should reach the reader, first, on an emotional level through the rhythm and the imagery. I've known English-major types who have braved madness attempting to divine the meaning in his work by hunting and analysing all of his allusions.
I like T.S. Eliot. I love The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I was rather surprised when someone told me it was about a marriage proposal. I'm not sure that that knowledge enhanced my appreciation of the work. I responded to the self-deprication of the speaker as he ruminates that he "should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling along the floors of silent seas." I was lulled by the cadence of walking "through certain half deserted streets." I was mystefied by the questions in the literature book at the end of the selection: Did he get the girl? How do you know?
My favorite Eliot poem, however, is Preludes. If you know what it is about, please don't tell me.
As for an explanation of my own poem, I don't know if I can give you one.
I am no T.S. Eliot-- not remotely. I am a genealogist. I am fascinated by the people and by the things they left behind, specifically things that can tell us something about the real lives of the people. I love old buildings. If you are lucky enough to go tramping into some place that still has the original tile or woodwork, some place that has been shut up for years, maybe even decades, it is the closest you will ever get to time travel. I'm desperate for the ability to see through the things time has done, the paint, and rennovations, to what it must have looked like, wishing that I could look through time and see the people, the ones who were the precursors to. . . this. . .and to us.