Poetry by Jael
A Letter Home
by jael bietsch

I never liked this town, I haven't
liked any in fourteen years,
gravel-narrow streets, small-people
towns. Everybody knows everybody
knows you moved away again. And I never
liked this house, not a flat stretch
in the backyard, uneven
clumps of grass. Across the overgrown
park under the watertower, rusty
swings and cigarette butts, glass
on the tennis court. The chain alway bangs
empty on the flagpole. Neighbors never complained
about the dog barking.

I cleaned the house
on Saturday. And the realtor never came,
Mom. I could have
brought a radio, hummed aloud, it was beyond me.
The silence was overwhelming and the footsteps
I kept not hearing. I
left the door open, everybody does.
I kept returning
to the front room, checking the door-yard for cars.
It was only me and the lists I was making of what
you left behind. You know you forgot
to empty that drawer? It was odd finding it,
the house was so empty of you
and there it was, full
to not opening.

We dragged Dad's airplane engine
with us for fourteen years, from New Hampshire
to South Dakota and here. It's sitting
in the garage, his ten-speed bike is
hanging from the rafters
and that white book-shelf headboard he and I built
propped against the wall.
I looked for that yellowed picture of us
kids when we were all small where
he kept it over his workbench.
He left two
pipe-racks in the closet, and a needle-point
buck hanging
on the wall of his office.

I spent nine and a half hours
cleaning you out of that house.
A full bottle of Tilex in the boys bathroom,
three and a half cans of powdered Clorox.
I love the soft sound it makes shaking
in the metal can. I love the smell
of Mountain Fresh Lysol. I couldn't remove
the smell of you
from that house. From the window,
I could see your rasberry bush
wild-growing the backyard where
you planted a sapling. I could almost see
berries from there without my glasses.

In that room which was mine before the baby
and which one of the boys painted
green, I found pictures in a pile
on the top-shelf of the closet. Those pictures
from high-school art classes. Water-damaged
from the flood, or from the mildew dampness
of the basement. One dated 1985, a faded
pencil-sketch I drew from memory.
Our house, New Hampshire. My
perspective, before I understood perspective,
was precise or close and the proportions
might be wrong, but how I remember it.

That yellow/white house, I missed
for fourteen years. I thought home was a house
then. How relieved you must have been
that I married and moved into my own before
you left. I still see you leaving
as if standing and shaking us all
from your skirts. We never were ready.
I wanted to be angry
when I rubbed the stains of you away
with my sponge and Mountain Fresh Lysol. I thought
I might have cried aloud; it was beyond me.
I made lists of what you left
behind and thought poems to write you
because you asked. And when
I left, I turned
off the lights
and I turned
off the air conditioning,
I left
my key on the refridgerator and I
locked the door behind me.

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    ©: 1995 Jael Bietsch

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    March 8, 2000