She grew the roses taller than the height
That my head in her high-heels could reach.
Though young and unable
To recall the year I was born
Without stumbling over the century,
I knew the address of where we lived in Lynden.
I knew the routes of every jaunt and journey,
And my feet knew the breadth of all the small miles
Contained inside that tiny town.
And then something fell apart
And I began to learn what it meant not to own our house,
And when we drove back out
From the middle of nowhere, where now we were,
To see how the roses were doing,
They were dead.
South to San Jose, my birthplace,
A rite of passage as we passed the Californian gates,
When it was "Happy Birthday!" on the interstate
At midnight, and miles, and miles from noplace.
Never had I hadn't a home before
Until piece by piece I had to reassemble
My definition of "a dwelling". Is it a place
That people dwell at for some time?
Then I have some hotels to call abodes.
Is "living" when people just survive?
Then surely we were so alive
On popcorn, hot dog, water rations,
Squatting at friends' houses
Until they moved us out
So we wouldn't throw the mood of their Thanksgiving.
North to Idaho. Best forgotten.
We'd rather sleep in the snow, and we did,
Than stay where too much of ourselves would be compromised.
The bears and wolves that lurked outdoors
Compared as gnats to that monstrosity inside the farmhouse.
The restroom was our freezer,
The freezer was our closet,
The burnt-down barn our toilet.
Is "home" a "house", is "home" a "place you live"?
Do "four walls" count if they
Dimension twenty-four feet at greatest width,
And come equipped with broken windows?
Finally, a breath of fresh air,
And then we run back south
In time to catch the falling leaves
And sell the skeletons left of trees.
And now here we are in Tennessee,
Wanting nothing better than to leave.