May 13, 2012

Residence (for Rick N.)

I built a house all around this day. I inspected the lumber piled in the lean-to, pulled stacks of boards from the moist blackness, planed and trimmed quarter-sawn planks, and checked decades-old Southern yellow pine for squareness and warp. No less than one hundred spiders perished on account of my actions, and for that I’m sorry.

My only desire was to contain the day, but to do that all else must be excluded. Keep the day safe from long shadows, the early mist that crawls from the pond, the strawberry and orange sherbet sun as it climbs above or falls below the horizon’s shoulder. Partition the day from night.

There were no voices except my own, so I sang while I labored. I’ll confess I’ve never sounded better: ballads and cowboy songs, chants in languages I could not have known, pop hits and fragments of lullabies. My ears tickled and my throat nearly split into bloody strings. The music made my hands stronger and eyes straighter.

When the thunderstorm began, I didn’t seek refuge inside the house. I threw my tools deep into the curtain of water, and then ran to find them and bring them back. Lightning helped me recover my framing square and hand plane in the sudden afternoon darkness. Rain poured into my face and quenched my thirst—I became a savage, dancing in the splash and spray. I don’t remember if I was naked, but it would have been right. There was no shame outside of the house I built.

At twilight, the storm cleared out and the sky tattered into scraps. Stars crept in like assassins, but I watched over my house and it was safe enough. I walked all night as a sentinel. Sometimes I slept while I paced. I uttered a prayer in my sleep, but upon awakening in the gloom, the words were wrong. I had spoken of my doubts and trials—that which could not sustain the house. I walked back to sleep and explored new dreams of redemption.

First, I heard the birds. The air changed as color bled back into the world. The house still stood, but in the latest light it was mean and small as if constructed by vagrants or hobos—a nest of splinters and chips collected in a flood drain. I could not recall the day that dwelt within. I doubted its residency.

As the sun pierced the tree line’s grille and insects shifted their chatter, I used hammer, crowbar, saw, and wedge to break what I had built for that forgotten day. I did not yet sing, but whistled a little through my teeth. The air lifted and fell with my tools, and I became the patron, the ascetic, the priest of this new day. I would build a house in which it could reside, and I will always keep this day.

comments

  1. Daryl Scroggins on May 13th, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    “Lightning helped me recover my framing square”

    Beautiful. This and all of it.

  2. Sheila Ryan on May 13th, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Damn, that’s good, MGS.

  3. Casey Cichowicz on May 13th, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    This makes me sad, in a good way. Thank you.

  4. Justine Kilkerr on May 14th, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Wonderful, wonderful.

  5. Michael Grant Smith on May 14th, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Thanks very much. Sorry about the spiders.

  6. Rick Neece on May 14th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Michael. Grant. Smith. You will never die. Thank you.

  7. Kathy Hilen-Smith on May 16th, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    “My ears tickled and my throat nearly split into bloody strings.”

    “There was no shame outside of the house I built.”

    wowsa

  8. Sheila Ryan on May 16th, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    The bloody strings really got me.

  9. Rick Neece on May 21st, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I read this to Danny aloud. I cracked when I came to “but in the latest light it was mean and small as if constructed by vagrants or hobos—a nest of splinters and chips.” I cried. He hugged me.

    C’flock wasn’t quite the same for him. He didn’t see everything I saw, but he loved me for loving a grand thing to be a part of.