It’s best to wake early, four, five a.m., while
the neighbors sleep and the moon floats
like a pearl in a pool of ink. In half-light
the empty house is less familiar, less sad—the walls
with their nail holes, the carpet—its patterns of wear,
curtains with no job to do. I sit
on my suitcase, eat powdered donuts;
a napkin for a plate, juice out of a paper cup.
Make one last check of the cupboards,
the drawers. Run my hand along
the countertops, the stair rail, trace
the walls with my fingertips, each scar
proof of my childhood, my initials
carved into the tree of this, our sixth house.
My family could write a Handbook for Leaving—
the way we pack up during summer solstice,
disconnect from people and places like an abrupt
shutting off of electricity. My father’s convinced himself
that the unknown is always better, the way the retina sees
images upside down and the brain corrects.
Here I smoked
candy cigarettes, my breath in winter passing
for smoke, pale green of my bedroom. I counted
the number of intersections on the way to school (four).
I bundle memories together, weight them with stones
like unwanted kittens drowned in a creek.
What kind of animal constantly moves?
The point of migration is the return.
We’re nomads without the base knowledge
of where to find water. These moves are
like arranged marriages; economics now,
love later. Maybe it’s not against nature
to move. Most of the body is no more
than ten years old and blood renews itself
every 90 days. But leaving disturbs the fabric
of a place. I’d rather stay and witness change.
My mother always wanting to plant perennials
that we never stay to see. I pour some water
on the marigolds clattering around the mailbox,
Aztec flowers of death, their strong scent
a beacon to lost souls. Then we drive away,
the blank windows like the blank eyes of
the dead, waiting for someone to seal the past with a penny.
This poem was originally published in Cider Press Review and also appears in the chapbook Tiktaalik, Adieu just out from Finishing Line Press.
Lynn Pedersen’s poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in New England Review, Ecotone, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, Palo Alto Review, and Heron Tree. She is the author of two chapbooks, Theories of Rain (Main Street Rag) and Tiktaalik, Adieu (Finishing Line Press). Her full-length collection, The Nomenclature of Small Things, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2016. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her website is www.lynnpedersen.wordpress.com.
Favorite poets: “I’m particularly interested in the intersection of science, history, and poetry. I’ve read Alice Fulton, Miroslav Holub, Linda Bierds, Pattiann Rogers, Albert Goldbarth, and Alison Hawthorne Deming. There are so many great books being published now. I recently read Carrie Fountain’s Burn Lake, Stacy Nigliazzo’s Scissored Moon, and Jennifer Sweeney’s Little Spells. I also enjoy 19th century poets. Walt Whitman is a favorite.”