October 19, 2015

Tricia Knoll - A Tear Down

Any house built on a landslide-prone slope
needs roots and bones. I call myself the Rivener,
called to oversee what was condemned as unsound,
shambled rooms, broken leaded-glass windows, bats in the attic. 
I’m the only one willing to oversee the wrecking ball
and make sure the men reclaim solid redwood beams.

I hold a fragrant glass of chardonnay
in one hand on the rickety front porch.
Here she rocked in a caned chair
before this home slipped
into neglect shingles and fallen gutters.
Locals say a teenage girl got pregnant
inside, the night she lost her virginity.
I smell mildew.  

There are hills in the distance,
and slanted roofs of machine sheds. One silo.
A siren echoes from a road to the east.
No butterflies. No bees.
No fluttering leaves caught in oak roots –
bare bones, strangling off into clay.  
Last week a feral gray cat dangled
a mouse like a closed-up purse and hopped
through the living room window frame.

I remember stories
of fried doughnuts and Concord grape wine.
I dreamed of my grandmother’s footprints of blood
on broken glass. After he berated her.
Where she ceased to swallow. Choked up
on his reprimands, scoldings, corrections.

I’m complicit. We knew what was happening.
Would she care that we are tearing this down?
The housing authorities give us no choice.
Do I hear her voice in the joists that pop
like flexed-out knees? I think she’d raise her kitchen cleaver
and say amen. Cut down the oak tree too.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet whose work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. A chapbook Urban Wild is out from Finishing Line Press. A book of poetry about the northern Oregon coast, Ocean's Laughter, will be out from Aldrich Press in December 2015. website: triciaknoll.com

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