By Matthew Baker
This is how you do it:
look at your room, its curios
and collectibles, and consider
what will fit into boxes, boxes
that must fit into only one car—
you will only be making one trip.
Turn to the walls, see then touch
each picture and its frame,
linger on the one of a field at sunset
that reminds you of the tall grass
circling your house, the garden you’ve hated
tending with your mother—been told to dig,
carry this here and here, clean up the waste.
To pack this or the other pictures
is impractical. You must save space
for the boxes holding not just your trinkets
but your clothes, your toiletries, your kitchen
appliances, which should be wrapped with paper.
What you want isn’t a fresh start but
a lateral move, a step somewhere new,
somewhere that isn’t here, not because here is bad
but because you want to unload your old things
onto new counters, into new cabinets,
to feel the thickness of water falling
from a strange shower-head, see your soap
resting on a new lip of tub.
You don’t want to change yourself,
only your setting, replace the long grass
and horizon of green hills with flat plains
or a stark burst of mountains all around
because it’s easy to live in one place
and be complacent, it’s easy
to grab where things should be without looking
when you need them, but
____________________what scares you most
is how easy it is, once you’ve packed the car,
to turn the key, press the accelerator.
Selling Your Childhood Home
She waits for my response.
She waits for me to ask why,
to contest her decision,
but why should I?
I could mention all the years,
all the memories, how I’d be without
the only true home I’ve known for decades.
But I do not.
Instead, I let her continue,
let her talk about practicality,
about needing a new job to keep up
with bills—she would rather retire soon.
She says there are new apartments
near the woods with paths designed
to offer a rustic experience.
It will be good for the dogs.
Downsizing will be good for everyone.
I don’t disagree, but I consider
her garden, its sizes and shapes,
how it wraps around the whole house—
a decades-old hydrangea with lavender blooms
beside the front stoop in summer a-buzz with bees.
Some days she will only glance,
but others she will spend entrenched,
the holes she digs and fills her only friends,
not the shovel nor the wheelbarrow,
only the earth before and below her
she can mound in peace.
She calls back a day later and tells me
she’s reconsidered, says if she gets the job she’ll refinance,
have enough to pay the bills—the apartment
would have cost about the same per month anyway.
She continues, but I recall the books I left
stacked in the well of my old closet.
The art on my walls—a recycled dresser drawer
painted by an estranged friend,
a metal sculpture of the sun,
and a framed print of Fedora
by David Shneuer I remember,
Parisians decorating the sidewalks,
the piece anchored with two long, thick nails
because the frame itself—all glass
and gold edges—weighs nearly thirty pounds.
I envision my mother’s struggle
with the latter, how it took two of us at first,
how if she changes her mind again,
she’ll have to store it and wait for me to return,
the gold frame scratching through the carpet as she drags it.
I tell my mother she should do
whatever makes life easier for her.
I don’t tell her I’ve begun to already consider
where she phoned me as home,
and maybe I won’t just yet. Maybe
on our next call we won’t mention the house.
Maybe we’ll chat weather,
the steady Mid-Atlantic rain on her end
droning like static between our breaths
as we search for easier words
to fill the gap.
Matthew Baker is an MFA student at the University of Nevada, Reno, but he’s originally from Pittsburgh, PA. Some of his work has previously appeared or will appear in NEAT, The Meadow, and Indigo Lit. If you’d like to keep tabs on him, follow him on twitter at @mmbakes.
Photograph “Rooms” submitted by Christopher Woods, a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, The Dream Patch, a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, Columbia, and Glimmer Train, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery – http://christopherwoods.zenfolio.com/. He is currently compiling a book of photography prompts for writers, From Vision to Text.