The carpets are skin-thin,
threads lace the holes like stitches.
The sun recedes behind the wrong window,
and scars mar sinks in nicotined inches.
The rooms want to collapse
on the phantom inspirations of ladies
whose magnolia talc still hangs
in the brocade drapes and peeling silk.
I think about the coloreds here before us-
how one winter the foreman came,
whipped that buck Sampson until blood muddied clay
and how he was a tribal prince.
I can see this war, every war-
deconstruction and reconstruction blend
like the burning, the building of continents
and I watch people drift in boats, starve in holds,
continue from cells without bars, without keys-
their ashes silt rivers, their bones lay paths
for those who stumble after.
The earth tilts its head
and I am watching through the walls
as people roam the yard, on into the streets,
the cities, the world-
some are planting rows, blisters on their palms,
or stirring pots with peeled sticks or drinking
shine from brown jugs while they lean back to back
under elm, under oak, under pine-
I watch mothers who beat their children
and fathers who turn away; the brims of their hats
broken above their brows.
I hear lovers whispering and old men rocking
in cane-backed chairs that creak regret,
old women shelling peas, stripping corn,
pouring tomorrows into jars gone as cloudy as their eyes.
Young girls in pleated skirts cha cha to 45′s,
and a cowboy rolls his own by an embered circle.
Boys in sailor suits wave from distant bows
while others kiss strangers beneath confetti storms-
victories caught on paper, on film, in concrete and stone.
If I had me some sugar,
I could make us a fair cake,
says the woman in the empty kitchen.
The faded sheers stir as if by breath.
Beyond the rooms, through the walls
and frame and rotting insulation-
past the yard and streets and cities
and fields and valleys and seas
are days that come and go without delineation;
shifts of gray to black marked only
by the ones who walk away.