This body, less than. Mouth a minus.
Grandmother crossed herself out.
Grandfather underlined himself.
My blood, I write. My double nothings.
In this house they left me, the exposed beams shudder.
The silence bows them, bows the bookcases’ shelves,
the middle of mattresses.
I’m supposed to feel better
knowing this bed sits on a hardwood floor,
which sits on dirt and rock, which sit on the earth’s core.
I’m supposed to feel safe because I’m grounded.
I imagine clomping around in plaster shoes.
I hear the sad plonking.
If heaviness guarantees my safety,
I am to sink into the walls of this house.
Melt in, one tense vertebrae at a time.
When I can no longer be sorted from insulation and wiring,
does that make me the house?
If I wear my grandparents’ photo on my chest
does that keep me a person or make me a wall?
Grandmother ripped a hole in her chest. Did her own wrecking.
My double Os. One entry, one exit.
I mustn’t forget Grandfather,
his overworked liver having finally given up.
Surely he’s dry by now.
If I use his busted pocket watch to tell the time,
am I sweetly nostalgic or just crazy?
Crazy drips down through leaks in the roof.
My poor head is doused in it.
I am less without them, an irrevocable subtraction.
I can only be more once more
by wearing their house.
This brick chimney: my hat. It’d be funny
if it didn’t feel like playing dress-up in their dead skins.
If I desire din and give myself a howl,
make noise to prove I’m still a person,
could my groan, if overheard, be dismissed
as simply the creaking of an old house?
Grandmother tore all her pages out.
Grandfather tried and tried to revise.
If someone broke in, could I be stolen?
Or have I sunk so deep as to be unteasable?
This bodyhouse. A layering.
My kind, I write. My foundation; my demolition.
# # #
Katie Quarles received her B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including The King’s English, Apocryphal Text, Interrupture, Poetry Now, and The Avalon Literary Review. She lives and writes in Rocklin, California.