The Wendy House
There are no tears in the house of poetry.
Gentlemen, the door is air.
Come in, the birds will adore you.
A house of words is not bricks,
but resonance. The roses are curious;
reading is a game of badminton
to them. Any English child has a name
for it, this place of pretend,
like the hat-crowned house the lost boys built
around the fallen Wendy.
There is only a noun up my sleeve.
It is true, too, an Arab child calls his verses houses
and may carry hundreds before the day is through.
Ladies, my frown returns like a homing pigeon.
My arm is paper, like my long brown hair.
I use my pen to chip away a whole,
crowd into this place where I am not alone.
Like Wendy, who wakened to mother lost boys,
I rub my eyes and teach lost words to fly.
I am sorry this chair is not wood.
That this cup is but two consonants, a vowel
and a syllable. Nevertheless,
I hope you are comfortable.
The roses say you are beautiful.
Today, the Arab children recite houses
to the English. Through the smallest windows,
Beethoven’s laughter is heard.
Friends, the t is served. Please stay.
The sky is homemade and the birds are singing.
I want to go home
said the small, blond boy at the door
of his house and I knew
what he meant, how the heart
has a different number and street
and its door opens perpetually to a man
we cannot find in these rooms,
these real rooms I have painted the color
of flowers longing for this interior winter,
this winter of the heart to end,
these beautiful rooms and halls
a widow and her two small boys wander
not knowing what else to do
like a certain length of music
in search of a piano.
The Telephone Man
Most of the time he was the back of a gray shingled house,
not very attractive, with grass and a line hooked up for clothes,
underlined by my windowsill;
but sometimes he was the floor of my bedroom
or the rug in the hall.
His voice moved around my rooms like a spirit
moving in and out of my objects;
sometimes claiming the paperweight,
only to fly off suddenly inside the body of a bird;
for nearly a week it possessed the roses he sent
and fled to a bowl after I threw them out.
Sometimes the actual man would show up,
his face defined by shadows that fell beneath his lashes
and chin,Vermeer-like glints on his eyes and lips
that made him even more real looking;
he smelled like a creature I belonged to,
so unlike the beige receiver of my telephone.
But his arrival was hinged on departure
like the little boy in Proust
who perpetually waits under the covers
for his mother’s goodnight kiss
and comes to realize that as soon as her steps
approach, they recede;
an opening of the door begins its closing.
I couldn’t trust which kiss was which,
hello and goodbye were just a matter of degree.
The little boy under his covers,
I against my wall.
Like the anorexic who makes eating
a special occasion, or the suicide
who does the same for death,
he would choose to withhold
Monday and Tuesday and all the other duller moments,
denying me the ordinary affection
of such times.
My body became a photograph of itself,
a reference to something past,
concluded, no more than a resonance,
like the voice on the radio in the car as he pulled away
or the daily god that rose from the answering machine.
To my nothingness, its memory,
he offered me his phantom hand
with a bouquet of invisible flowers.
Time became an inconvenience,
no longer unfolding, but rewinding.
Real life was a passenger in the one we hoped for,
while the good dream we all wake up from
trying to determine the meaning of,
left us with only the dust of what it felt like.
That particular day,
because we were not on the telephone,
I was reminded how empty I feel
when the children run from me
and go to their friends
and the driveway is full of snow
and that kiss was not hello
and he is in reverse
backing away, and away,
and I stood there
as cold as I could bear
biting my lip until it bled
knowing the phone in the house was dead,
if indeed it had ever really lived.
Wendy Woody Kwitny’s book, House of Affection, was published by The Sheep Meadow Press in 2004.