Permit for Demolition
The front porch collapsed in a slow-clap
of bricks. Next morning, a bulldozer coaxed
the tin roof down. Hoses settled billows
of particles—wood splinters, mold, plaster,
clay baked a hundred and thirty years ago.
It was tragic and riveting. It drew
a camera-phone crowd. The house
that’s gone has a twin; they were built
by brothers. When the survivor was last on sale,
a friend heard a whisper on the attic stairs:
We’re glad you’re here. She walked away.
This street is a jawbone of mismatched fangs.
My wooden four-by-four sits on a tiny lot,
too big since the kids, my heroes, moved on.
I lost a molar last week, one of four baby teeth
that stuck things out when the adult quartet
never arrived. A shudder at lunch and
a stained shard in my hand. The dentist
pulled the still-rooted half, rocking it loose.
My skull shook but I felt no pain.
When a house gives up, the ghosts
have to rent elsewhere. Here’s hoping
they’re afraid to cross the street. I’m not
glad I’m here, in Confederatelandia,
although I make the best of the holes
in my life. Small towns bite down, protest
the protests, and cherish the rot.
I school myself to be absent in presence.
Time to stop bleeding all over my losses.
My daughter’s first word was goodbye.
Lesley Wheeler is the author of the hybrid memoir Poetry’s Possible Worlds; the novel Unbecoming; and five books of poetry, most recently The State She’s In. Her poems and essays appear in Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Poets & Writers, and Guernica, and she is Poetry Editor of Shenandoah. @LesleyMWheeler