Before I Was Born

My parents gutted homes:
Tudors, early Colonials, and cottages
whose porch rails hung together like crocodile teeth.

They razed kitchens with rotted counters, peeled yards
of bleached flowers from a nursery, wound cloth 
around each hand to break panes from their lead casings.

Dust spiraled in the air,
reeled in the chasm between their bodies,
stiff in the sunlight.


My mother could not make appointments on time. Mostly she skipped them altogether. She feared the offices with their lights pitched at soothing levels, the way her steps were silenced by carpeting deep and blue. This was an ocean she was wading into, her legs bringing her below an invisible tide as she moved toward a door at the end of the hall. Every doctor suggested the same prescriptions as cures, life rafts, but the talk made her edgy; she resisted their words, carefully shaped to mimic scalpels. At home, mother talked of the spies behind our pine trees in the backyard, of the messages left in jet smoke trailing in light. In the office, doctors shook out palmfuls of pills, and she shrank at the sight of bees, alive and jumping in their hands.