Text
 
           Andrea Hollander
 

Living Room


In the cave of memory my father

crawls now, his small carbide light

fixed to his forehead, his kneepads

so worn from the journey they’re barely

useful, but he adjusts them

again and again. Sometimes

he arches up, stands, reaches, measures

himself against the wayward height

of the ceiling, which in this part of the cave

is at best uneven. He often hits his head.

Other times he suddenly

stoops, winces, calls out a name,

sometimes the pet name he had

for my long-dead mother

or the name he called his own.


That’s when my stepmother tries

to call him back. Honeyman, she says,

one hand on his cheek, the other

his shoulder, settling him

into the one chair he sometimes stays in.


There are days she discovers him

curled beneath the baby grand,

and she’s learned to lie down with him.

I am here, she says, her body caved

against this man who every day

deserts her. Bats, he says, or maybe,

field glasses. Perhaps he’s back

in France, 1944, she doesn’t know.

But soon he’s up again on his knees,

shushing her, checking his headlamp,

adjusting his kneepads, and she rises

to her own knees, she doesn’t know

what else to do, the two of them

explorers, one whose thinning

pin of light leads them, making

their slow way through this room

named for the living.


Winner of the 2004 Runes Award

from Woman in the Painting (Autumn House Press, 2006)

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