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The Kinloch Rivers Memorial Prize

Terri Lee McCord

Vacant House across the Street: List

The Vacant House Across the Street

What’s left      for strangers—
the For Sale sign,
a house you loved and coveted
before you were even engaged—
in view behind spring redbuds.
To the side, a high row of daffodils
that hid the lower plane
of the vegetable garden and you as well,
pruning under a wide hat,
from view of the street.
A washing machine you insisted go
in the dank crawl space
where you hunched thief-like
to scrub and sort clothes,
a scene you thought too improper
for anyone to see.
Your son has cut the tea olives
that grew past
the front windows, and has painted
the kitchen where you did not cook
but presented food on silver trays.
What does it matter now
for your ghost to invite
everyone in, to explain
you were too sick
to greet the ambulance driver when
your husband scalded himself on the radiator.
You’ve already shown yourself
in the throes of death,
clenching at your nightgown,
refusing the food that gurgled
in the back of your throat,
and, still, the polite smile
of apology through it all.

Vacant House across the Street: Text
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