Nancy Kuhl

Madsong of the First 100 Houses

Voice, slick as gasoline tight
as a burn scar. The new barn is
locked tight. There was a duplex, up-
down days blasted through with rain.
And insects in mason jars, broken-wing

bird in a shoebox. Air holes
for breathing, sticks of pine, fist-
ful of grass blue as a wiry feather.
On the seventh day, the pull-out couch
smoldered and burned. Sleep in the garden,

adventure of whistles
and flashing lights. When wind winds
through the trailer park, the now house,
how it shakes and rocks.
Here is an almost memory

from the cuckoo clock, dead-end
house: black out evening of embers;
ink-stained loosened-tie father. Pocket
full of bifocals. Back to
the foggy window, the graveyard

behind the church where bones hastily
buried are a devotion. Wine nearly
froze in his beard. Wine stained
his teeth burgundy like berry picking.
White fences and clothes lines, rows

of doors, steps, windows and bodies
tucked away among sofas and books.
A train trestle, a long deserted greenhouse,
a Wednesday afternoon prayer
service and its narrow bench. You can live

in a shoe or a hollow pumpkin or
an enchanted forest cottage, but
that's only part of the story. Girls
hide in cupboards and dresser drawers,
pantries and steamer trunks; they climb back

stairs in old humpbacked houses
on humpbacked hills to their rooms, their
closets of stolen shoes. Gardener's shed,
mole's October holes traveling
below beets, carrots, onions. Sleep

in the owl's cave, the forgotten
bomb shelter, water pipe tunnel, and
a tree fort where the walls, lined with dirty pictures,
creak with abandon. Dawn, the red house
the yellow field, the lady at the Dutch

door. Flutter of fists and loose hair.
Green sky Decembering, a coming
ice storm--these are landmarks. Like the bridge
covered with the spray-painted names
of lovers who once lived here.