Kate Gardner

United States

Kate | 17 | bi | romantically fascinated with Minoan bull leapers | I've only ever hated airports and fascists |

I've swept the porch (the sickroom)

April 16, 2019


the ice-pick, the unwelcome visitor
drawn firm across the naves
and the steeple of my sight
-
so skinny as the wrist of a mill child,
watching in the dull heat, a shuttle
and its dust, ever passing back and forth
-
a ladle to a stranger, drinking the
conduit broth, a thing of glazed eyes
and filmy teeth, ground into a warp
-
into a weft of absolution, but only for me
only in the service of a stranger.
Forgive my attempt at a bedside
-
manner, I drew the curtains wide
and cumin yellow just to please
you, I fluffed the duvet
-
with the practice of a housewife.
I hate that duvet, stained where
my mother slept and left me to myself
-
hungry as a raw and milky
chicklet, all mouth and guzzling throat
all filmy eyes, and waning
-
gibbous, bawdy smiles and
bauble lips, a stranger to the sickroom.
Look here, I laid it for you
-
I set the pitcher on the dresser,
rimmed with blue, and a bowl, and a washcloth
and raised the windows but a fraction
-
I hung the gown
and pinned the sleeves to the line, and the cap
to the pillow, the cases
-
are washed, the sheets fitted and
folded, five hundred count thread, the good
stuff, I promise
-
the good stuff, tight woven, no
pilings to pull off, no spilling
to the bowels of the ravine
-
the rock dizzied, sheer
like the mouth of a dead man. The children
throw bottles and birdcages
-
down, just to sink and envision the sea.
I called from the cliffs, where the bluebirds
were dropped
-
I called from the cliffs, where the air was clear cut
I let fly the laundry, one and two
a sock for a shoe
-
that's yet unworn.
I could not free the birds, though I called
from the cliff
-
twisted brass wouldn't heed, nor
would iron be wrought. No feeling imparted
would make any mark
-
though one tripped the lock, all by chance
with a claw. It perched in a maple
and cawed itself red
-
varicose, red. Green beneath skin, and bent like a river
a twin to the tree
the xylem and phloem,
-
the bark's tapped for sap, the sugar oozes.
At the sanatorium, they serve it thinned with broth
in paper cups,
-
crumpled, dusty roses, a pattern
'round the rim. You can scrape off the wax
with an overgrown
-
nail, peel back your cuticles,
too, what to do?
what to do?
-
the path back is worn like the coat
on a drunk. There aren't any birds
anymore, the children
-
have all left, the children won't
throw bottles and build hideouts anymore,
the house is white
-
shiplap, the insides too.
The kettle is on, and it sings
and it sings
-
the crickets sing too, and a swish in the grass
(good morning angel child)
they make earthen perfume, the roses in bloom
-
the petals are soft as a cloth or a mouth
just to crumble, and fall at my
touch.
-
when they die, I'll cut off the fruit from their
stems. (and the insides are full, so full)
I think a rat died in the walls
-
of the sitting room, but I've swept the porch.
I promise, it's clean, I've swept the porch
just stay and be merry,
-
and I'll pour the cider. I've swept the porch.
I built the stairs with these hands, with
axel and awl, with awning trawled
-
and ledgers set and marked and kept
and ledges leveled, yes, with lead
inside the level,
-
precious metal, radium slick
upon the clock, keeping time
with swollen jaw
-
and ticking fingers, restless hands,
washrag buffed and bandaged, stilled.
I keep strips of bandage in
-
the cupboard 'neath the sill,
I keep all my druthers in the cupboard
‘neath the sill
-
I found antiseptic in the cupboard ‘neath the sill
I found Kendal Jackson in the cupboard ‘neath the sill,
green necked and ruddy cheeked
-
how many times did I pour out the bottles?
how many young days, the door shut
forever, and then opened
-
you can’t keep a girl like that, unknowing,
till unknowing is a sickness
of itself, heavy building in the skull
-
and the cupboard doors are heavy,
loud shut
I slammed the shutters, and it stayed
-
inside my skull for thirty days
loud shut. Two week headache,
two weeks free, two
-
rubber ducks in a backed up sink,
two rubber ducks all dog chewed, scummy.
The drapes are thick and color
-
cast, the drapes are thick to stop
the light. My sister loves the sound of sirens.
The drapes are thick to stop
-
the day. But even so, the
headache stays. I fall and scramble,
hands and knees, I cannot see
-
behind the drapes. The cupboard, though
before me, sits. And I can hear
the bluebirds
-
I fumble for the latch. (It’s cold)
But, god, my head is warm,
(good morning angel child)
-
my eyes are all starbursts, my
eyes are all gone. I remember that the sockets
of my mother’s eyes are deep
-
(good morning angel child)
and her teeth are as muddy as river stones,
cracked and blackened. She painted
-
my room with the feeling of a wet cloth,
laid kindly on the head and hair
of fever. Oh, where are the cloths?
-
My mother, the cloths. Oh,
where did she keep them? Her jewelry,
too,
-
her sapphires are stuck in the
floorboards, the shiplap. There’s ladybugs stuck
in the light by stairs
-
and the carpet, the bookcase, smooth as a button-
eye, smooth as a stone, smooth as the icepick,
but not quite as cold
The icepick, I’ve found it, all iron, all smooth
it’s surface is smooth, and the world is so rough,
the floorboard are rough, and the cupboards
-
are rough. It’s too warm for a fire. The firewood is rough
it’s too cool for a fever, too strange for the sun,
(good morning angel child)
-
the headache still blazes, when hid from the sun
no valve for the pressure, I’ll make one
myself
-
though I can’t leave the house in so dreadful
a state. The linens are
wet though I left them to dry
-
they molder and mire where I once kept the fire
how can I have guests when they molder and mire?
how can I have guests (though I have swept the porch)
-
when the sinks are all full and the house smells like
death and my body is strange and my steps are unsure
and the icepick is kept in my mother’s old
-
drawers. The drawers! That’s it, the drawers,
the cumin yellow bedspread, that will
be my bedspread, the pitcher
-
will be mine, if you’ll keep it filled
can I ask that? Will you keep it filled?
Will you tend the garden
-
and keep up the coop? Will you boil the suet
and clear out the path? Will you make the puddings
to light with a match?
-
so when you come in, find my lancets and matches
they’re older than milk
(and the key’s by the door)
-
and lift me clean up by the ankles and wrists,
lift me clean up by the ankles and hair,
The bed’s ready made, you can lift me clean up
-
you can pull off my shoes if you’ll just leave my socks
and take me at sunup to watch from the porch
so still that the bluebirds will land in my lap,
-
the family disease, not a thing they can
catch, not like the beatles, the earthworms,
a song. I’ve swept the porch, dear
-
the laundry is done,
and maybe we can be happy.
 

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