Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Language of Structures

A Haibun

The old house is not a dead thing. With our breath, we spin forth spent shells of our previous existences, shedding fragments of the coil, exuding what we lose. Its form is changed, but it remains. The rough board of the floor, the ancient and powdery plaster, the great beams underpinning it all—these are brought slowly to sentience as we spend out our finite time and energy into the air, as we are sheltered from summer’s heat and winter’s chill.

Generations of us, bleeding out upon the canvas of the structure, making it, changing it.

When it sings its groaning song at the apex of the storm, it is singing with the voices of our ghosts, the voices of our yesterdays, now hazy in the memory and changed with the year. It sings the domicile history, of joy and tears, of unremarkable days of doors opening and closing, of light and darkness, of work and idleness.

When the child drops a bouncing ball and it exits the room, it is no wondrous thing that the ball is never found. Houses like these, living ones with the memory of years, can sometimes find uses for such things as a child’s toy or a baseball cap, for that cork puller you’re sure you once had, for that screwdriver that was on the table the last time you looked. The old house is not a dead thing, and it has its small wants, its small desires.

In the lexicon of squeaking floorboards and loose steps, in the vocabulary of scuttling noises within the wall, in that one room that will raise the hair of your arms on a dark winter’s night, it speaks. In the constant tapping of the leaky faucet and the whisper of the ancient pipes, it speaks. Alone, when our eyes open in the dead of night, we can sometimes hear the words. Alone, we sometimes know that we have nested amongst the spectral skeletons of all our earlier iterations, and the breath stops in our throats. These structures slowly become the amalgamation of us and what we have been. They will carry the seeds of us forward, abiding often long past the day when we, ourselves, have flown. These structures, like the abandoned and fallen nest of the robin amidst a winter’s thaw, will hint at us, whispering from that place of permanent absence, should there be one to hear.


This living timber

these places where we exist

living ships of time

All these little deaths

seasons spent away in dust

now take root and bloom

Now the timber sings

its lungs the wind, its song our

half-done chronicle


Give it what it needs—

these boards have sheltered us well

let them have their due

Missing tennis balls

and sundries escaped into

the void between walls

It is not theft, but

remuneration of debts

we would never pay


We have heard the voice

a thousand times before now

never listening

The screech of every

floorboard, the squeak of each stair

the noises of home

Hearken to them now

in the depths of winter’s night

gasp, finally knowing


Our structures remain

whispering tales of ages

in tomorrow’s ear

These ghosts that abide

brick and mortar, wood and nails

windows painted shut

When you think of me

think of me here, in these rooms

at this high window


drthunder said...

vgmbalmWow! Can you possibly understand how special this piece is to me? Thanks. You do, indeed, have a real gift at plucking at my heart strings with your words.

drthunder said...

Trying again. The above comment included the word identification when I published my comment. Don't know why.

MB said...

Now the timber sings
its lungs the wind, its song our
half-done chronicle

The house has a life of its own, dependent on, intertwined with, ours.

Bobby-T said...

We indeed impart shadows of our essence to our domicile, creating from a house; a home. What stirring words these are! Although I live where ever I am, my home is sorta special- an extension of myself if you will.

Firehawk said...

Hello All,

Belatedly, I say thanks for coming by. I thought I'd responded to this one, but I suppose I hadn't.


Gotta love the nonesense words preceding your comment!


I like to think that houses take on something of their tenants, and we some of them.


The more you invest in them, the more that special connection grows.

Across Inconstant Breath

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