Mind-Walk Past Our First House As Time Simultaneously Passes

Share on

Garages, headlights, fathers, houses, driveways, small fingers, Schindler’s List, PennySaver, haunted bathrooms, bloodstains & caramel lacquer.

W     e start at the end of the long driveway, where tar joins the gravel’s edge, softening on hot days and shining a bit in the sun.

Press your small fingers in
and it will stay that way
so press it again
with your toes.

By day’s end the sun will make it
the same as it was before.

Our bare feet burn on the sun-exposed gravel, crunching as we walk toward the house. We watch our father turn this corner, broken and burnt red from sun-work. We hop the railroad ties on each side of the driveway, bolting toward his truck and asking if he brought candy this time. Sometimes he does and hands it out the window to us, sticky smudged children from some familiar foreign place.

Dust rose
from the seat of his truck
glittered in sun
and his big work boots
crunched in gravel.

We continue on toward the two-car garage, once torn down by a dog named Noony that was locked too long in the basement. The garage has a smooth floor and a pole in the middle. We skate on it in circles. We pull in that night and see it in the headlights:

Grey dog like a possum
with glowing eyes
and bloody paws
sitting on a pile
and chewing bloodstained
insulation from
a budget garage door’s insides.

We walk up the sidewalk toward the front door. We remember this sidewalk was gravel. It hardened to concrete while we watched. A wooden play set appears at the same time a squeaky red bunk bed is carried in pieces through the garage and assembled in our bedroom. The basement is made of cinder-brick. Bent metal straps await a cosmetic shell, which is never applied.

We built swords out of wood
and wrapped them with silver tape.

We bent the steel straps skyward
to give our swords a place to rest.

There are trees in the yard from our birthdays. They are small at first but grow tall. One falls after our brother sleds into it. We stand on the porch and survey the yard, count the roots sticking out of the ground.

We rode down this hill on plastic bikes
with three smooth wheels made of plastic;
we stopped by dragging our feet through the grass.

We stand at the front door finished with cheap caramel lacquer. The yellow-green window is beveled. Lying on the thick brown carpet on the inside of the door, dust dances in the light, makes the boy playing there and the dogs sleeping beside him glow more brightly. From the outside it is different.

On one of my birthdays
my father broke this window
with his hand

on purpose.

On another, my mother
threw a plate of nachos
onto the dinner table
and it broke into pieces.

We don’t knock or go inside, but peek. There is the living room, called that for good reason, and the couch set made of velour with scenes from a farm and many barrels in the pattern, repeated over and over in many shades of brown and orange.

My father a little drunk
moves a floor-model television
into the living room himself;
for the first time
I hear someone say “cunt.”

There, on the wall, is the mirror we make faces in, the couch we sprawl upside-down on to feel the blood pulse in our temples. There, in the corner, is the hallway with the haunted closet, full of the bloodstains my brother showed me. Its door once tore my toenail off while I was trying to get a blanket. And the haunted bathroom, where I hear a woman’s voice sing and tell me to do things. Down that hallway is a room on each side, one for kids and one for adults. After the addition, it appears on the side of the house, one for boys and one for girls. The girls’ is haunted by a boy named Simon who lives in the closet, my brother says. The boys’ is blue and has a brown wooden bunk bed that turns to red squeaky metal after it breaks and our folks find a used one in the PennySaver.

Even now I sleep
with blankets on my head
just a hole for breathing
from the things my brother said
were living in our bedrooms.

Straight ahead is the kitchen, which we can see through the missing front-door window and the grate made of wooden spokes. A wooden island appears in the middle. The cabinets are generic brown wood and stay that way, but the outer edges of the room stay dark. We realize we can’t remember much of the kitchen.

It is easy to remember a thing
without remembering what it looked like;
a hole surrounded
by beautiful grass.

In the right corner where the addition starts, we remember the smooth tile floor of the dining room, the cast-iron wood-burning stove and its heavy black door. I remember crying at Schindler’s List too young, and crying at The Fox and the Hound too old, in this room. A spare bedroom appears to the side, and my brother grows tall and moves into it. My new brother moves in with me.

Each morning
my newly teenaged brother
fixes his hair
in the mirror outside
his bedroom.

Farther down, we remember now, is our parents’ new bedroom with the high temple ceiling, the ceiling fan dangling on a long pole from the top. Two wooden doors with wooden grates slide open by collapsing in the middle. They always come off the tracks and swing open, and they do this as we watch. One is a closet with clothes and a paint bucket full of pennies. One is a bathroom you can see into when the light comes on. My parents sleep in on Sundays while we watch cartoons until we bug them.

This morning
I walked in
to my parents’ room
while they were searching
for my mother’s earring.

Then I see my father
sitting on the toilet
through the spaces
in the door.

Back into the dining room, through the sliding glass doors, a wooden deck appears. Down the wooden steps is a fenced-in square where the dogs shit, a small wooden doghouse they sometimes use and a door leading to the basement.

My brother hid a thumbtack
prick-side up on the wooden deck
then tricked me into running in circles.

In the place outside the fence, a pool appears, and a game like drowning my brother plays with me. Near that, a bonfire pit, where I step on a coal and limp around on one foot, howling. We walk back behind the house, where we jump bundled off the deck into heavy snowdrifts. We walk along the yard’s perimeter, where the grass meets the heavy steel guardrails separating our space from the streets that lead elsewhere, back to the driveway and the sticky tar patches, the mailbox rusted on its pole.

When this is my father’s yard,
the grass is kept short
with edges finely marked.

Now it is overgrown,
and the yard’s perimeter blurs
into that of a shack
in the abandoned woods nearby.

Michael Hurley is from Pittsburgh. His work has appeared in Sycamore Review, New Delta Review, Fourteen Hills, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Mid-American Review.  His chapbook, Wooden Boys, is available from Seven Kitchens Press. He is an MFA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Share on