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Blueprint and Ruin (one need not be a house to be haunted)

ISSUE:  Spring 2022


When we moved with our first newborn
into this ’70s raised-ranch house,
I pretended some benevolent ghost
could soothe him. Clearly, even someone
dead could be a better mother. I paced
the wailing baby, envisioning a different 
place. Busted out some doorways. Imagined
the popcorn ceiling scraped. I was
convinced under the shag carpeting
I could hear some hardwood creak.
I was still freaked out about holding
something human that felt so thoroughly
untamed. In high school I liked being
afraid, snuck into the old pioneer houses
outside of town or the midcentury A-frame
languishing on the market, where one night
my friend ditched her weed in the half-broke
kitchen drawer when the cops showed up
and we ran. We had to go back the next day
in cold daylight to retrieve it. Well, we didn’t
have to, but it felt like it then. It was scarier
in sunlight when anyone might see us
slinking in. Those razed houses are now
a rehab center, sprawling outdoor mall—
exact location maybe P.F. Chang’s or
Lowe’s? And here I am in aisle 12 considering
cabinet pulls and maybe someone’s foot
is buried beneath. Once I was a girl who loved
a skeleton, who wanted to see a body
down to its bones, to see into the next room
through the hole punched in the first.
To swallow something whole, then spit out
all its seeds. To answer to no one. Or maybe
to answer to a different name, like Persephone
that lucky girl was wild because at any moment
she could go back home, find her mother waiting
there. In flipped houses on TV, ripped-out walls
always equal added value. But that’s not really
what I’m after. I’m pissed off my wardrobes
never open up like portals no matter what
new hardware I install. Where’s the ghost
who can replace my mother? If only I were
a house. Then wreck me—whosoever, either
architect or vandal—bust these useless walls
and let in the ragged morning light.



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