The Old House That Could Take Me

or leave me was a drafty, dingy place
to store a marriage. Forgotten
cracks invite the humid
stagnancy of summer, the unwanted
cold wind of winter, stirs up
smells of antiquity hiding
in centuries-old corners, adding to dust
settled on every surface, except the car
keys, which took me, often, to my mother’s when
you tired of playing husband, compromise, reality
within those walls. You stayed behind, always
benefitting from the forgetfulness of time.
Within an hour of cleaning, dust bunnies
moved back in, as though they never left.
Their warren, beneath our bed and behind
the couch where you slept, when I couldn’t
find the car keys. Dusty tumbleweeds hid
behind open doors, places I never thought
to sweep until they closed. They hung
like flags from sticky cobwebs, connecting
the glass globe of time magnifying
the enchantment of a house built before
my grandparents lived. The tongue and
groove of craftsman pine lent the
distraction of credence as hatred
bloomed, growing into the weight of eco-system.
The bohemian neighborhood vanished,
slums crept in like kudzu. Shots screamed  
after dark, neighbors were robbed,
barred windows multiplied. From the front porch
of a half-way house on Central, men stared
too long. Over time even ancient trees learn
to forgive intrusion, allow roots to grow
alongside rather than into. Those old walls
witnessed a bursting of pipes, gallons of tears
flowing for days. The past painted over
water marks, coat over coat. The unfinished
basement became a haven and then mausoleum
for fat, diseased river rats, decomposing
in summer heat. The big bright windows that lined
the arched pine ceiling, beckoned the blood
flies to the kitchen. Our marriage collapsed.
Surviving on instinct, I caved,
sold the house, even though I lived there
before you came along. A young couple
bought it, beaming. Our starter
house. I hugged them
both, wished them luck and drove away
knowing there was nothing
I could give them.

Jacqueline Markowski’s work has appeared in numerous online and print journals and is forthcoming in Wilderness Poetry Review and Kentucky Review. Her work is anthologized in Storm Cycle and Point Mass (Kind of a Hurricane Press.) A Pushcart prize nominee, she placed first at The Sandhills Writers' Conference.