Sunday, April 10, 2016

There Was a Burning House


C.D. Wright

The carpets, the paneling, the overstuffed recliner. Chainsaw carving
on the TV, kerosene lantern for thunderstorms, girl

lying on the carpet in her shorts, Converses, ankle socks. TV remote
within reach. Stained glass figures in the panes.

A coaster, an ashtray. Tailgates, their trucks, their people, everybody
in short shorts, corrugated buildings, old A/C units,

window fans, toolboxes, decoys, ball caps. Taxidermic squirrel. Rusty wire
fences, chain-link fences. TV cabinet in the dump.

People on their cedar decks, people on their knotted-pine decks. Broken
hunks of concrete. Makeshift sheds. Xmas tree

decorated with dollar bills, Xmas tree decorated with Coke cans, and
a little lizard in a kiddie pool. Antlers. What else.

No one ever reads. Small, necessary, man-made body of water.
Stocked with bass. Large-mouthed. Near Homer.

Local news: the Iliad. What else.

Not a damn thing to be done about it. Tow truck float of teens: skinny
kids, black kids, white kids,

big kids mugging for the camera. Long-tail cars trawling like gators.
Pay phones, cigarette machines, gas pumps,

inner tubes. Ketchup. Food is for wolfing. Young girl by an oil drum
swaddled in a towel. Lord have mercy

it’s hot. Sugar shaker. What else. White people are slow dancing.
White-haired woman washes her husband’s white hair

in kitchen sink. Killer II seated next to a deacon. For a sense of change
furniture gets moved around the room. Churchy men.

Downpour in a parking lot.

Walnut tree in the background. Some can still sew. A tongue sticking out.
In profile: head of a pretty woman rhymed with

head of her dachshund. Pretty round-eyed woman facing her husband
taking her picture driving around

in lessening light. Corrugated fields.

There was a house fire. Terrible. Was there not. There was a burning
house. Everything lost. The photographer

and his family. Lost all of it. He picked up his other ax, his trusty
twelve-string and drove to TN. A man shall we say

of aliases. Starts playing for Blue Note. Interposition and nullification;
integration when the nullifiers aren’t in town.

Friendly zombie stumbling toward us

with quarters in his sockets. Balloons, the smell of balloons. Boy with a
guitar, boy with a dumbbell. Hand puppet,

paper doll, tire swing. What else. Cousins. Firebird stenciled on his hood.
Spillway. Bridge pylons. House parties, drinks in red

plastic cups, beer bottle cozies and dips, sound check in a diminutive gym.
Big hair and funky fur jackets. There was vegetation

was there not. There was

johnson grass. Strong scent of dusty tomatoes off the vine. A furry
moon. What time is it. Does anyone care. Playing

for Blue Note. A pair of barstools, Her highchair. Jesus is coming. Jesus
is knocking on the door. Jesus is the lamb in the room.

Homecoming mum fat as a cabbage. Someone inspects another’s
splinter. Cousins. Here, have some sugar.

Four-stoplight intersection, not a long-tail car parked or stirring.
Surveying her plants. All the country-fried downtowns.

Velvet. Wicker. Faux suede. Polyester.

Nearly enough alcohol for every man, woman, and child. Teetotalers too.
Every Friday and Saturday night. We hear

bullfrogs. Guns and flags. Flags and guns. More flags. More guns. Bonfires.
Mutts. What the hell else. Pass the ketchup. Swaths of bunting

and reams of tablecloths and a line of folding tables. Folding chairs.
PET-milk ballerinas.

There was a house fire. Was there not.

All the sins of the world. Went right up. Barely enough love to go around.
So long as the sun kept blazing and a massive

moon rose in its hallowed path, they couldn’t, they just couldn’t, they
couldn’t not enjoy themselves.


  1. this sentence from wright's poem

    White-haired woman washes her husband’s white hair
    in kitchen sink.

    reminds me of seeing my father's last shampoo

    he was in walter reed army hospital (the real one, in dc - this was 2009) - a 96 year old world war ii veteran

    he had lost his ability to skillfully swallow and was in the process of dying from the dissolution of his lungs due to the fluid he had accidentally breathed in

    but he was still able to sit up - had he regained his strength the plan was to install a feeding tube, but that was not to be

    the young nurse washed his hair gently and with care - it was perhaps the last quasi-affectionate caress he ever received, although we took turns holding his hand in his last hours

    like a dish at a chinese restaurant, incarnation is both sweet and sour