It is a Dream, Remember

We have moved to a new house

A grey stucco, two-story, decrepit hulk

My room upstairs, the parents’ down

Sister and the little boy in the basement

 

My father’s face glowers brighter than his cigarette ash

We move like dance partners in and out

bumping rumps until bruises burst purple blue

My shawled mother, Hispanic,

scuttles about like a mouse

My starving sister and the little boy

sit at the kitchen table and drink air from teacups

 

I stand in my empty bedroom – no bed or chest or lamp

Up the stairs from the kitchen, as huge as a tennis court

We could all sleep in here in the lightless cavern

Then the wood floor creaks:

the little boy peeking in the doorway

 

Next morning, I go anywhere

When I return, the stairs leading to my room

have been sawed off, the kitchen bathed in sawdust

My sister and the little boy refugees

and plates and cups all drenched in deep, sweet dust

 

I look up to the gaping hole in the upstairs floor

Mother chewing her cheeks, kids licking sawdust

like it was powdered candy

Mother’s face an old, folded roadmap,

her rosary beating like a heart

 

I walk to my father’s chair, he reads the funnies

Why did you do that, I ask, why cut off the stairs?

Be out of the house by night, or I will beat you senseless

growls the crackerjack in the Lazy Boy chair

He has already done that – what is different

in this new old, old new house?

 

You cannot hurt me, I say,

I can lift you with a finger

And he throws the stare that used to horrify me

I no longer afraid, but in the next war

I know we will fight to the death

He flings the newspaper in the air and stands

grabbing the little boy by the throat

Then he runs out the doorless front entrance

 

In the kitchen, the mother brushes the children’s hair,

The little boy rhythmically clapping his hands on the table

She fingers the rosary and offers a silent prayer

a prayer for this house not meant to stand

We must go, Son, she whispers,

the little one has told me things

“The little one” drawing prophecy in sawdust

 

Then we pack our no belongings, our no clothes, no photos

We walk through the garden alone

then we are in the alley, long walls of garages

We look back at the grey stucco, two story, decrepit hulk

Our father lighting it afire

reveling in the flames on his arms

 

We drive away, my bent mother in her shawl, the little boy, crying

my sister holding him – me – while I watch

And we drive into the sun

It is a dream, remember

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