Jared Gullage

The House - Poem by Jared Gullage

A young couple, newly married, get into their car.
The house sits at the curb and whines,
Its red-painted door shining in the morning,
'Come back to me, sit inside,
Make my hearth beat,
Preheat the oven,
Light the pilot light,
Let me live with you.'

The man tightens his lip,
And he doesn't look at the house,
Not willing to say anything of comfort to it,
Afraid his voice might shake his resolve,
But the woman cries, and she holds up her hand.
'Stay, ' she says. 'Please, don't follow us, ' she says.

They decide that a house is too big a committment.
They leave theirs to wait on the side of Highway 280
Between Opelika and Columbus,
Like people trading in their dog for a turtle,
Or a screeching bird.

The house stays. They told it to stay.
'They'll come back, ' it says.
Its neighborhood watch sticker turns white and peels.
Nobody to watch it now.
'They'll find me, ' it says to itself.
Its head turns as the cars pass by,
And it listens for their little van
For the four doors opening wide like bird wings,
Children laughing from school and daycare.

'They'll come, ' the house says,
'There'll be a Thanksgiving here,
The overwhelming turkey-cooking smell,
Cranberry sauce, stuffing and the stuffed.
They'll be crammed wall to wall,
Bumping butt to shoulder as they try
To find their seats at the family table.

'These cars will see me in the cold November,
And they will want the warmth inside,
The orange glow of Autumn candles,
Televisions tuned to the Auburn-Alabama rivalry,
Everybody's belly full.

'The drivers will open and close their fingers
By the air-conditioner ducts in their cars,
And wish they were inside,
Back in their warm beds,
Not commuting, but dreaming in my dreams.

'My family'll come and they'll bring their children home,
And in the morning: Styrofoam,
Crinkling cellophane and too many plastic pieces,
And daddy, without his slippers,
Will step on sharp little monsters in the carpet,
And jump back like spiders were biting.
Mother will be making breakfast,
Pancakes and eggy breakfast casseroles,
Eggnog staining the inside of green glasses.
The hangover of too much Christmas will settle in
And I'll sleep under the white blanket on my head, '

The house stays in Alabama near Highway 280.

The cars go by, and the house stays;
Its masters told it to stay.

The signs grow like weeds in the front yard:
First Realty, Rice Realty, Century 21,
For Sale By Owner.

The signs disappear.

Paint peels.
A few of the shingles shift.
The front steps rot.
Cats have kittens in the crawlspace.
Chimney swifts hatch in the chimney,
Bats chitter in the attic, a constant noise.
The house has forgotten their car,
The warm slide of its tires in its driveway,
The familiar jangle of keys.

The cars out on 280 have a warmth the house envies,
Commuters huddle in their coats,
Air-conditioners breathing across the radios
A man and woman chat about inconsequences and latest news.
Journey plays between blasts of hiphop and Lady Gaga.
No one looks for their bedrooms beyond the windows here again.

To the house, these are breaths of winter,
Sighs only
A bleb of life that might look,
See only ruins of memories,
And forget it in the next commercial.

The house shivers.

It waits on its own porch,
Termites and carpenter bee larvae in its bones.
It looks over the helmet heads gathered.
It looks over the rumbling bulldozer.

'I stayed. You told me to stay, '
The house breathes out.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

Again, another poem written on the way to Columbus along Highway 280. There was a house sitting beside the road and left to rot, and I wondered to myself what the story was. Sometimes, on a cold morning, I would look at the houses along the road and wonder what went on inside of them. This was such a house. I wondered, do houses look with envy on the cars passing by. Do they say 'Come live in me and give me life.' Do they ever wonder if they'll be in a development (I'm starting another poem here) . So, here is the poem, then.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 19, 2012

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