The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Julie Preis


Nothing I pick up
is whole.  Bit by bit
I assemble my parts.
Half moon of pearl
size of my thumbprint.

Fragment of broken wing:
rib's hard curve
beneath the breast.
I probe a shark eye
with my own,

twirl the center spiral
of a whelk.
Pebbles trapped inside
cannot be freed
without snapping the spine.

I search for color:
white of knuckle bone,
dusky violet of sex,
faint yellow of old enamel.

As I walk I clatter softly,
each shell a scrap of mirror
washed through with holes.
Thin shards the crackle-pink
of new skin on a wound.


Either I've just moved in
or have lived here for years without knowing it.
Either I recognize this place or I don't.
Something is familiar, a patch of lawn, a fireplace,
        scuff marks on linoleum.
I never know if I'll find refuge, chaos, the beginning or end of flight.

Usually I find a mess.  Truckloads of junk have arrived before me.
I must furnish the place with torn fabric and scraps of lumber.
I must establish residency.

Always there are people milling, intent on important errands.
If they would hold still I could ask them how to begin.
Neighbors drop off children I must care for.  
I scramble to remove dangerous objects.

The house is a sketch, a skeleton of beams.
Or a living presence whose walls breathe and floors rise up to meet me.
Just as I get my bearings
a door opens into another wing I didn't know existed.
I climb a staircase and discover sky above an artist's loft,
a rooftop city humming with life.

I find a suite of empty rooms, waiting.
I'm always alone when this happens. All noise falls away.
Some hidden window in me opens then.
A bird, released by my heartbeat, flies into the room,
circles invisibly, alights on the sill.


Some say the homing urge prevails.
Against danger,
against reason, blood calls
to its own, Return,
you'll always have a place.
Touch down, lift off,
soles of the feet burned
by forgotten fires.
Some never return
believing nothing is there.  
One stays, one leaves,
another tries to leave
or to return but cannot.
Each tracks the other
imagining regret.

Sought for or not
the power of home
pulls and repels,
creates itself over and over
in lamps at dusk,
scuttle of leaves on the porch,
the way basement stairs
release the damp perfume
of cardboard cartons
long since put away.

Copyright 2006-7 by Cook Communication