My parents’ house took a beating the winter my mother was going— blizzards, ice busting gutters, the wallpaper stained with run-off. March came, and then it was April. The grass came up green and flaked with thin leaves of slate roof shingles. “I’ll be going up soon myself,” my dad said to me, as we were drunk, or at least I was, swaying, delaying, all of us together at home two nights before the funeral. Our TV room where we watched Petticoat Junction (“there’s Uncle Joe / he’s moving kind of slow / at the junction”) and other moronic kid reruns was originally an entranceway or acted that way with a curved ceiling—the carriage drop-off at the old Pennsylvania RR station downtown was a gesture itself when mansions were pulled down as eyesores and for more lots, between Forbes and Fifth Avenue; with stained glass on top of the airy first floor windows that did not open above windows that opened like doors attached to soft metal levers, of a first modernism, of straitening, the books less gilded, the embossed designs set a millimeter less deeply, but still decorative, opening onto green sycamores, with intercom wiring buried in the old time walls up along a laundry chute, and voices still rasped not by us from a kitchen room to a maid’s bedroom, houses built for lawyers, for ledger men, for once gleaming knights of analysis, doctors, engineers. There was a coal room, a cherry tree. Potato and chicken every week in our baked non-moment to be followed by another— how to see the present, how to see the past.
David Blair‘s first book, Ascension Days, won the Del Sol Poetry Prize. His poems have recently appeared in Barnstorm, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Ploughshares, Slate, and storySouth. He is associate professor at the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, Massachusetts. (10/2011)