Underneath the House



It must have been summer,
the time my sister dared me to come underneath the house.
There was a smell of spiders
in the low dirt corridors
and the dark passed our eyes
like a continuous cat making us blind.

We moved on our haunches
breaking cobwebs,
scraping the wall with sticks.
When we heard dulled footsteps
overhead, we held so still I saw our breaths
drift out, looping and falling
losing shape thinly.

In the last room the light
was brown, and the rubble there, once damp for a plant,
now dead as a foot,
dry as an old man’s ankle.


My father kept his tools under the house;
on a long plank bench were nails and slivers,
boxes and slices of metal
and bits of shattered picture glass and glass-wool padding
to line the gramophone;
over it all the smell of linseed
and the growing spoor of crates of mushrooms.

In bed I would listen to the sounds downstairs
of hammering and planing keeping on into the cool hours.
My father with red cedar
dovetailing corners
staining and polishing in smally oily circles
or smoothing an edge, the wood hissing,
shavings curling and dropping to the floor.


I dream that I run with no shoes
down a cement path
towards a sound and a square of light.
This night is the cylinder
of a brown glass jar;
hands on my head I push up for air.

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