Ramshackle houses grace fields and roadways. Floorboards warp, turn graywood, split and pucker. Rusty nails climb from their holes like eighty-year locusts rising into daylight. Daylight, yes, sunbeams through roof-holes, light creeping up splintered stairs like an absent father seeking his children. Daylight presses at crevices, daylight lonely in cluttered corners. Along roofbeams and on torn-paper walls, daubers have plastered dried-mud cathedral pipes. Their music is silence that stretches across the harvests and barnlands.
Its body is a scatter of broken plates, fallen wallboards, curtain rods, and mouse bones. Bricks sleep in the driveway, swallows nest under kitchen cabinets. Windows are eyes, mirrors are eyes: shattered, tarnished, fragmented, staring night and day. The abandoned house hears the grass calling it, hears stones calling, hears wind telling it to fall, fall, buckle and fall, slide its cupboards and pine boards into earth, let glass panes become simple stones, pull time over it like a dirty quilt.
Poem, Starring a Possum
Consider the opossum. She dreams of walking through sky, soft clouds brushing her flanks like green grass or corn stubble. To her, sky never seems out of reach: it’s a blue meadow just beyond the horizon’s fence line. The opossum sleeps twenty hours a day, dreams five hours per night. That’s more dream than waking. Sleep is her kingdom, her dreamlife more real than worms and kernels. When we flip on the porch light, bang pans and squawk, shoo her from bird seed, from the garage, we must seem like nightmares.
Tonight, my eyes quivering, grayfur possum shuffles across my own dream, pink snout poking at stars, nosing them around like brightlight grubs, pushing Mirach and Alpha Andromedae across October sky’s black lawn. She is drawing a self-portrait, mimicking her own curved tail with a slender train of prehensile starlight. Two-wombed white beast, she’ll live no more than a year or two, then huddle down in soft grass to dream her longest dream until moonlight nestles between her ribs like a heartbeat.
Three crows savor a possum splayed dead alongside Crane Hill Road. Peck and look, peck and look. Not far off a metal pail rusts in a corner of Mitchell Krebb’s barn.
The crows graze in the stubble of a wind-wrought field. Their eyes shine like glint-rock, the sheen of oil on water. There’s ice on the river. Nobody comes this way anymore.
Christopher Todd Anderson is associate professor of English at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he teaches American literature and creative writing. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Tar River Poetry, River Styx, The Midwest Quarterly, Ellipsis, and Chicago Quarterly Review.