Victorian

1

The edifice imposes: weather-faded blue, three stories of old-growth cedar.

Not on a hill, as I imagined, but ensconced in a deep lot, mobbed by maples

and ivy. Turrets, wrought iron, and a trim of decay. The frame leans forward,

as if eliciting concern, but of course it’s merely collapsing—a slow-motion

bow to entropy. A graceful descent, brutally authentic. An arcane articulation:

a mix of peeling-paint-scrolls, fractured cement, spindles, and tin flashing.

Behind boarded windows and bolted doors, an ornamental age remains.

It inhabits the wood-grain; it swells. Or concentrates in a single detail,

a spool of lavender thread.

 

2

Crumbling chimneys: geology. Disheveled shingles: geometrical decay.

Warped wood: deviance from rigid decrees. I slip in to the house between

nailed boards, I find my way among uprooted plumbing. A cold decrepit oven,

a stained dry sink. Walls damp, plaster dissolving, wallpaper hanging in shreds.

The weight of furnishings has been mercifully lifted. The hearth holds no ash.

What once was a parlor is a cavern, what once was a bedroom is a simple tomb.

Lives scrape the floorboards like paper scraps. Frontiers of dust become empires.

Grief and ecstasy: floral, entwined. Here, in the hollow of a long inhabitation,

death is easily housed.

 

3

 

The stairs sag beneath my weight. The cellar excels in memory: rooms

where urges are somehow preserved. The banal debris of striving—hairpins,

chair-legs, a spoon—dissolve. But why so slowly, and why in this gorgeous aura?

As when music fuses with memory, as when swallows linger on summer evenings,

these details persist, receding from their antecedents. Abandoned, I can only

squint and watch them go. Accosted by light or baffled by darkness, my eyes

are unaccustomed. History proceeds, an irresistible pageant. Each human act

astounds me. Every gesture, subtle or violent, stuns and hushes,

then sweeps me aside.

 

4

The autumn birds are filtering through, permeating the blue vivid days.

Why exclude them from my fine confusion, from the ever-dissolving house?

Finches say sweet sweet sweet, and the high thin notes of waxwings trim

treetops, rooftops, sky. The birds, migrating for eons in exquisite patterns,

have infused my very thought, have traced their lines on my faltering instinct,

lending it a tensile definition: the ability to travel, adapt, stay strong. Even

as I flee the Victorian house, its imprint frames my every utterance, informs

my every mood. But birds glide freely through it! Natural history is once-again

sustenance, catalogue, display.

 

 

5

 

Soaring windows, massive beams. The energy of old-growth forests, once-

removed. No wonder the birds move through with such ease. The cold and

imminent collapse of the house, the partial erasure of history: it’s only entropy,

nature, a neutral edict. The one and only moment, atomic, decays, releasing

its measure of energy. The specifics determine the afterimage, the flash and heat

of memory that ignites the coming age. The birds are the specifics. The texture

of bark stripped from the cedars. The angle of the saw in the long-defunct mill.

Absent specifics, present specifics: all the same. Specificity never wanes,

even as bodies sink, as objects dissolve.

 

 

6

 

This is the coming age. This is history, unapologetic. The one and only moment

opens, engulfs the waning future, the ever-waxing past. Reverses, not time,

but my expectations—moment after moment eroding my coarse desires. Time

refines need: crude impulses take the shape of an actual human body. Graceful,

unique. Every blemish a blessing. Every flaw a facet of a jewel. Nude, the body

adorns itself. Clothed, it moves in mystery. Absent, the body evokes presence.

Present, the body is unbearable. Too much pain, too much ecstasy—I require

the earth to bear my weight, to coax me along. O house, o structure of nature:

contain, uphold me, please.

 

 

7

 

Swept, then, into eventualities, rising and turning among currents, I surface

and I disappear. I am an apparition to my own doubting eyes. My hesitant hand

draws away from the object of my desire. The atmosphere expands, relaxes

its hot grip. Mountains rise, distance themselves from their violent origins. Ocean

waves, reversed, refuse the shore. In actuality, nothing extraordinary occurs:

nothing needs to. Is not the impossible earth, gliding through the cosmos—o

silent blue orb—sufficient to meet my demands? It’s a trick of the eye: each time

I reappear, I’m more and more sheer. Soon you can see the world through me.

I laugh and I vanish, substantial at last.