Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (5) Posted 02.15.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Christian Wiman

"Five Houses Down"


Five Little Houses Photo: n.elle

I loved his ten demented chickens
and the hell-eyed dog, the mailbox
shaped like a huge green gun.
I loved the eyesore opulence
of his five partial cars, the wonder-cluttered porch
with its oilspill plumage, tools
cauled in oil, the dark
clockwork of disassembled engines
christened Sweet Baby and benedicted Old Bitch;
and down the steps into the yard the explosion
of mismatched parts and black scraps
amid which, like a bad sapper cloaked
in luck, he would look up stunned,
patting the gut that slopped out of his undershirt
and saying, Son,
you lookin’ to make some scratch?

All afternoon we’d pile the flatbed high
with stacks of Exxon floormats
mysteriously stenciled with his name,
rain-rotted sheetrock or miles
of misfitted pipes, coil after coil
of rusted fencewire that stained for days
every crease of me, rollicking it all
to the dump where, while he called
every ragman and ravened junkdog by name,
he catpicked the avalanche of trash
and fished some always fixable thing
up from the depths. His endless aimless work
was not work, my father said.
His barklike earthquake curses
were not curses, for he could goddamn
a slipped wrench and shitfuck a stuck latch,
but one bad word from me
made his whole being
twang like a nail mis-struck. Aint no call for that,
Son, no call at all.
Slip-knot, what-knot,
knot from which no man escapes — 
prestoed back to plain old rope;
whipsnake, blacksnake, deep in the wormdirt
worms like the clutch of mud:
I wanted to live forever
five houses down
in the womanless rooms a woman
sometimes seemed to move through, leaving him
twisting a hand-stitched dishtowel
or idly wiping the volcanic dust.
It was heaven to me:
beans and weenies from paper plates,
black-fingered tinkerings on the back stoop
as the sun set, on an upturned fruitcrate
a little jamjar of rye like ancient light,
from which, once, I took a single, secret sip,
my eyes tearing and my throat on fire.


This poem first appeared in the June 29, 2009 issue of The New Yorker and is reprinted here with the author's kind permission.

Read more poems here.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Accidental Mysteries: 07.01.12


The Interventionist’s Toolkit: Project, Map, Occupy


On My Shelf: André Breton's Nadja


Accidental Mysteries: 07.01.12


Flickr Collection of the Week: Signs of Pittsburgh



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (5)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Good Stuff!!!

VR/
Joe Moran
02.18.10 at 05:45

twenty years from now, i will still be able to remember these images. i will see the yard, and the hands. i will know what the dishtowel feels like, and i will be able to smell the whiskey.
i won't remember the words, but i will remember what they meant. thank you.
gypsy
02.18.10 at 11:02

Beautifully written.
Owen
02.25.10 at 04:20

good! "Son, no call at all. Slip-knot, what-knot,
knot from which no man escapes — " o/


Tarcisio Bispo de Araujo
05.17.10 at 07:18

" christened Sweet Baby and benedicted Old Bitch"

Like it a lot, subtle : )

thanks
Adi
(http://twitter.com/adipawar)
aditya pawar
05.26.10 at 08:09



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Christian Wiman’s new book of poems, Every Riven Thing, is forthcoming in November from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He lives in Chicago, where he is the editor of Poetry.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS