New Old Place
This poem won First place in the 2011 2-Day Poem Contest
We move into a 90-year-old building
on top of Seattle’s steepest hill.
Cascade of pavement breaking onto
Mercer Street, wet palm of the city.
This reminds me of Rosemary’s Baby, I say,
adding, after you recoil, in a good way.
Slender bone of railing rattles up the stairway,
carved glass doorknobs and faucet claws whose
squeaking twists seem to wind back time.
I finger the ragged ends of my hair,
think of clipping it short like Mia Farrow’s
or like my sister’s.
We push furniture into rote patterns turned
fresh constellations inside these walls and
their leaden secrets pressed between layers of paint.
The view of jewelled harbour breathing ferries in and out
makes up for patches of pale rot that
mar the floorboards, the vascular ripples
spread across the bedroom ceiling.
We quibble over the order of books on shelves,
Atwood nestled against Burroughs,
Nabokov’s eyes, black and white and skeptical,
peering out from one thick spine.
Duct tape slashed, the last
derelict box labelled “MISC.” unpacked.
You cradle your guitar, strum tenderly,
steady treacle of music a test
for damage from the truck
while I realign mugs in cupboards,
get compulsive about the evenness
of gaps between chairs.
Thousands of miles from our real homes,
we revel in these small comforts.
Hard part’s over, you say,
eyes closed as we clutch tired hands,
but I bleed consciousness
slowly, uncertain of sleep in this new old place,
threatened by the ease of your descent.
Below us, a bus filters through the city,
passengerless save for an umbrella,
a going-away gift from your mother,
that slides and shudders with each turn of the vessel,
its bright nylon collapsed, forgotten,
still damp from the rain.
Published online June 01 2011.
This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.