Mad woman rattling pots and pans in the kitchen at midnight
Hanging wash in the basement at 3 AM
Conversing loudly with the dead
An anxious litany
“You know what they’ll do? Do you know what they’ll do? They’ll come take the house.”
With Daddy gone
The only thing left to lose
“Don’t run the water like that”
“Close the door”
“Don’t you touch the thermostat”
“Do you know what they’ll do if I can’t pay the bills? Do you know what they’ll do?”
“They’ll come take the house.”
That fear seeped out of the foundation like rain water
Bubbled up from the basement drain with the raw sewage
Forced you to put a lock on the cellar door
But the lock never contained it
That fear sat with me at the kitchen table
Eating boiled meats, mashed potatoes and canned peas
While you stood with your back to us
Eating over the sink
That fear hid in the corner of the living room
Behind Daddy’s empty chair
When we stayed up late watching horror movies
“Spooky,” you said. “Time for bed”
And that fear trailed me all the way down the hall
Lurked, creaking the floor boards just beyond the night light’s glow
While you muttered obscenities in the bathroom.
I left as soon as I could.
You remained vigilant.
I came home years later
To find you asleep in your chair
Amidst bags of dirty dishes
And stacks of magazine
“She needs better care,” the doctor said.
And we shuffled you on
Your belongings falling away
Your life made smaller and smaller
To accommodate each new convalescing room.
I sold the house.
To pay your way
To keep you with me
Just a little while longer.
In my dreams
We are together in the house.
You, me and that fear
“I can’t stay” you tell me
“It’s not safe.”
The locks gone from the doors
The furniture sits in the yard
They have come
To take the house
Even then I cannot contain
The guilt, the shame and
The small victory
Would be me