The Breakdown Series

January 15, 2008
Three generations and the string starts to unravel.

It starts with a house that you
spent your childhood wandering
in and out.
In a summer that’s almost too cold for air conditioning,
you explain the layout of
the 1940’s Saint Matthew’s;
when you turn onto a street lined with
illegibly drawn houses against a
watercolor sky.
You told me owls were buried in the trees.
Empty front yards spoke of what life was like back then, outside my window
where I can’t see.
You tried to stop at a house with
dirt lined in the paneling
and you told me
“We are home.”

There goes Watterson Trail.

You retired at the age of 67.
I was there.
You learned to become a nurse
at a big urban college , living in the monster of the city with a Hawaiian and a Latino.
Your pension comes in as scheduled.
“I didn’t go to work today.”
With your sunken eyes, with your lost pounds,
rice paper skin,
I can almost pretend to believe you.
Dr. Hattaburg hasn’t seen you in years.
You say you can’t lose
the job you just got as a new nurse out of Colombia.

There goes Chicago.

We’ve cut up the holidays and divided them amongst ourselves.
Each occasion calls for a different house with a different mixture of lights but still
the same awkward atmosphere.
My house is Thanksgiving.
We borrow the china, out of the wooden cabinet-
looks like something someone brought over here a long time ago.
A broken imprint of a hand in plaster;
signature on the back, like a spider web or a crack.
I say the name and now that’s what you call me.
You’re afraid we’re going to steal your mother’s china.
My brother’s new name is Tom.
The one who disowned the family.

There go the children.

Air smells like burnt food lying in the bottom of the oven and
it’s almost a bit too cold but
we line up outside anyway, a lifeline
bringing chairs to the dinner table.
People eye fried turkey nervously.
Plastic cups with permanent marker labels and
family turns out to be high school;
groups from with hushed whispering in the middle like
a carousel that’s come off it’s hinge.
You’ve been drinking and you
and you nearly blind yourself with a
sharp corner into your eye.
You ask me who I am;
“I know you are… here. But who are you.”
The name that I answer is the same regardless.
No matter what I answer, you will not remember me.

There goes me.

There goes you.

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