“Most of the Children Who Lived in This House Are Dead. As a Child I Lived Here. Therefore I Am Dead” and Three Poems

Most of the Children Who Lived in This House Are Dead. As a Child I Lived Here. Therefore I Am Dead.

Figure 1. What takes place after the death of animals.

After the dogs were buried beneath the patch of blue pansies, their ghosts took up residence in the black upright piano in the drawing room of the house. The moon came up, and the pollen stopped falling. It had already fallen on the dandelions, the grasses, two girls and a woman and a man, and the blue pansies. When the pollen stopped, the house looked like a butterflied breast. Nearby was a stadium, where improbably graceful men invented new kinds of physics.

Figure 2. A museum, cherished, which was once a home, and imagined as such.

At a different house, two lions guarded a tiled courtyard filled with hurricane plants, also called Monstera deliciosa. The lions were stone. There were flights of stairs in the courtyard that led to spaces, like the Blue Room, from which you could survey the courtyard from above. The spaces were full of artifacts and tapestries, and one of the girls went there often to learn the meaning of house. The lions were owned by a woman who took them on long walks through the stone-paved city.

Figure 3. Apostrophe to the reader.

I am not writing this poem as a fable because I am afraid to speak of myself. I am writing it as a fable because I am afraid to speak of you, by which I mean that I suspect that some of these things may have happened to you also, and I am concerned that you will not hear that unless I make for you a fiction. Of course, I am also egotistical enough to think that I can speak of you if I use generalities, and to suppose that any of the houses I have been in are the same as those from which your night terrors originate.

Figure 4. What led to the death of animals.

Next to the black upright piano was a window, which looked out at the blue pansies, which were also sometimes purple, or yellow, like the word contusion. Near the patch was an oak that was once encircled by weeks’ worth of shit, and a chain that once encircled one dog’s neck. Next to the window was a medicine cabinet. The other dog used to sit next to it. The fish met a swift end with a gallon of bleach. A child is being beaten, as is another, and a woman.

Figure 5. One of the children visits the museum.

Around the courtyard there were—and still are, because this house, unlike the other, has not been overtaken by walls of bees—cloisters. In the cloisters are sarcophagi and living statues. The girl wrote: In the end, you will inherit only the finest silence, or the darkest retreat. In the sarcophagus next to the bench toward which the lovers who visit the courtyard are partial, children hide: Look at me. Look at me. I’m dead. The girl, who had by then spent fifteen years as a connoisseur of grammars of violence, said little.

Figure 6. Early lessons in physics and metaphysics.

When the other dog died, he was bluer than the pansies. Particularly his gums. That is how the girl learned that death need not involve a chain to be the product of force. That is also when the girl began to learn the words psychopath and sociopath in the English language. The distinction quickly confused her, and she learned that this confusion is not the product of language acquisition, but rather one of many brief genealogies of a characteristic aspect of human beings.

Figure 7. Rebellion against physics and metaphysics.

Which is to say: the inability to look at cruelty and accurately name it; or, the inability to look at cruelty without needing to try to name it. Here is what none of the dictionaries or lexica will be able to fully accommodate: every time the girl played the black upright piano, the man who also lived in the house thought, How wonderful it is that the ghosts of the dogs have learned to sing, and how fortunate it is there are a range of art forms that can prepare bodies for their journey toward the river dark.

Figure 8. Apostrophe to the reader.

I am also writing this poem as a fable because at times I have been afraid to speak of myself, and lately it has become important to me to learn how to respect that my earliest affections for abstraction were by way of disguise, that my turn next to straightforwardness was by way of retaliation, and that I will always negotiate between the two like a brown, black-haired Goldilocks, perpetually dissatisfied with the size of the offering, although now, I tend to think of obstruction and clarity alike as acts of definition.

Figure 9. A lover’s discourse.

In one of the rooms in the museum was a painting of Europa lying on a bull, feeling what the girl at the time thought to be love, for the simple reasons that Europa’s thighs were spread, and one of her legs was curled, and her head was thrown back and her mouth open, and she seemed to be holding fiercely onto one of the horns of the bull, who wore a garland and looked straight at the viewer, and because the sky, in the background, held glimmers of salmon-pink, and the water nearby seemed a greenish blue.

Figure 10. To the reader.

I am also writing this poem as a fable because it is my sense that the emotional impact of the genre owes a great deal to the fact that what counts as denouement is instead a reiteration of the text’s limitations, which is to say that a fable never resolves so much as re-declares its problems, while all the same insinuating that such re-declaration can pass, seductively, as a tale of progress. Here is an explication by way of analogy: the earliest version of this book took as its climax my sister’s death, which is now its beginning.

Figure 11. New forms of physics and metaphysics.

Most of the children who lived in this house are dead. As a child I lived here. Therefore I am dead. Most of the animals who lived in this house are dead. As an animal I lived here. Therefore I am dead. The English word planet comes from ancient Greek and Latin words meaning wander or wanderer. As children and animals we live on a planet. Therefore we wander and are wanderers. The alphabets, essentially, are trees. Therefore this book is a forest. No forest is ever a forest alone.

Please click on the poems—Image 000, Image 001, and Image 007—for a fuller view.

Three Poems

when I imagine myself / I am always leaving / I couldn’t draw my own face if god asked


...I didn’t see this, but I read somewhere
that an orca carried her dead calf for weeks to mourn it—