I See My House, My Field

after Marianne Boruch


My son lives there now, in his winter

like a husky dog burrows in snow.


Most of the rooms (yes, I can see them from Florida)

are muted by cold, and the furniture


is still the maple my mother bought the year

she had her affair with my father.


My son doesn’t think of this as much as I do—

he has his own ghosts rustling the drapes


of the picture window in the small front room.

 There are nights he calls me and plays a song


that reminds us of something from two decades ago

the way an echo fills a cup before it overflows.


This house he lives in, it is the house I lived in.

It is the house of my childhood,


of his childhood, of my mother’s death.

Across the street is a large field. “The prairie” we called


it, like that made it wild, but, there were wild onions growing

there long past WWII ended, when the small brick


houses were built so neatly in rows. I see my house, my field,

my childhood as it walks room to room. It climbs the stairs


and back down again to the kitchen in back, all enamored

and saddened for the missing parts: The orange clock


with the bee swinging behind its plastic face, the piles of Family Circle

and Woman’s Day magazines. My grandmother’s piano


and dentures, for she lived there too. Gone is the radio

atop the old Kenmore and Petula Clark telling us happiness


is downtown. And all this, in this house across from the field,

is the effrontery of windows assuming we’ll like the view,


the front door and carpet so sure we’ll always stay

with nowhere else to consider, no mark on a roadmap


to reach, no occasion calling. And all its voices held there, against plaster

and time. In summer they almost drift and move away


but each winter pulls them back to the bricks and floorboards.

Forgiveness. This is not yet in my house. It shimmies


from the small bedroom where Grandmother died to the hall

floor where my mother waited days for someone to find


her. It ascends the stairwell to reach the bed where my son now sleeps

and I see him sleeping there. I can see across 1500 miles


to the emptiness with its missing teeth, shoes, and canes.

The branches of the large backyard maple cut down


decades ago still scratch at the window. It is winter now, the bees

of the field are all sleeping. My son is still sleeping and I watch


him like a ghost longs for its skin. After midnight, near the black-blue

of morning, I move through house to yard to watch the half-moon


weep just a little. Or is it my mother’s face? Maybe my mother and her’s—hands

clasped in death like never I witnessed in life, only they are smaller


now, in their shrouds, and floating in the branches of the long-dead tree

hoping to snag them, to keep them in the backyard of my childhood


where I sing to Baby Tears, not even imagining it would be strange

someday to cry for a man sleeping on the second floor,


my old bedroom, a man who I cannot reach, who I cannot touch,

the man who is my boy sleeping in the snow of our winter.



When Our Children Died



tree in cold fog

like bark of birch in dim

winter as she bends back in wind




come back from graves.

A child’s death is wood

gone wild. A thousand years settle

on sky.



days each river

is a floor embedded

with feathers. Women walk dry-beds




Last Day of 2018

(with Mary Craig)


Unsettled and feeling strangely weepy,

I may tattoo Per Aspera ad Astra to the inner wrist

for “through hardship to the stars,”


a gift of tender wrist to inky needle.

My starry tears have awoken from a night

of violent cricket song,


but before the nocturnal opera’s ended

before the faceless chorus shuffles

from the gaping stage and, singing, settles


into vacant seats around me

like thespian junkies hungry for the play

I’ve not yet written. I, myself, take the needle


and hover. Phlebotomists prefer the left. Hydrangea

blue emerges double-stranded from my palm

and deltas where my watchband rests.


On my right, veins draw an “H” I trace

for Horror and puncture the scudded skin,

living  vellum ready to make record of the journey


its forever string of commas cut like sickles

through a lifetime’s curdled misery

now end-stopped in a point of fire.


And I ask if this should stop. Is the sickle sharp

enough to bring it to a close? Or is that why

the commas run around my wrist, an ink-twisted fate


I defy. Per, see that? I am ice. Asper . . .  Hang

this rock face cut from sunless sky in a tapestry of ice,

slubbed and heavy on a warp of root and stone.


And here it is, last minute ebbing

with its stabbing thought:

There must be something else I should do




Judith Roney’s diverse work has appeared in numerous publications. Most recently, her chapbook, Waiting for Rain, received an honorable mention from Two Sylvias Press, and Field Guide for a Human was a 2015 finalist in the Gambling the Aisle chapbook contest. Her poetry collection, According to the Gospel of Haunted Women, received the 2015 Pioneer Prize. She confesses to an obsession with the archaic and misunderstood, dead relatives, and collects vintage religious artifacts and creepy dolls. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida, is a poetry reader for The Florida Review, and a teaching artist for The Poetry Barn in West Hurley, New York.

*Judith Roney’s exquisite corpse partner for Last Day of 2018 is Mary Craig, who writes poetry and nonfiction and lives in southwest Germany.

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