I think I might move our rusty, moss-covered old cultivator from behind the house to the east end, and put it near the thriving young grapevine I planted last year, and let the growth pile up on it and climb the two handles. The cultivator is meant to be pulled by a horse. It’s from my great-grandparents’ farm, at the corner of Avenue 404 and Road 74. Imagine that. Now, of course, the house is gone, the barn is gone, the tank house, the lemon tree, the pomegranate, the olive — everything is gone — the neighbors who knew them, their children, and so on. And I am gone. Gone to Oregon.
Lemon Sun, Pomegranate Blood
The little unpainted house where my great-grandparents lived has been gone for many years, along with their lilac and lemon tree, their olive tree and barn, and their brave and lonely footprints in the dust. It is gone, yet last night I saw it in a dream, a silent beacon in the dark standing at the northwest corner of Road 74 and Avenue 404, with yellow light spilling from its windows on the ground.
I stopped the car and went inside. The house was much bigger than before. There were many rooms, with strange high ceilings, and in each room there was a bed. In each bed there was an old man or old woman near death, softly moaning. One man, lying on his side with his eyes shut against the world, said, “I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired. . . .” Poor soul. Lonely soul.
No one else was about. No warm and smiling aunt, no patient grandmother with weathered hands, no sunburned grandfather with rough gray whiskers on his face. Only this harbor of despair, with its battered boats gently rocking, rocking, rocking,
and I a stranger
in this place,
door to door.
The real house contained old letters and a piano, a heavy oak dining table, kitchen implements, and straw hats. The entire floor was bowed, and a large branch from an umbrella tree held the roof in place like a giant’s thumb. There were dry weeds in the yard, a pomegranate tree, and a lilac thriving against all odds. A tiny, sun-bleached garage. A tank house with a circular harrow on the ground floor, and an outside staircase to the second floor where my father’s uncle lived. A faithful barn, in which all else could have been safely stored for the Second Coming,
a farmer’s cathedral
without a gate.
I left the place, ashamed that I was late.
This morning, the sun is a ripe lemon high up in my family tree, and my fingers are stained with the pomegranate’s blood. The miles I traveled in my sleep are etched upon the wood of this old house,
like the lines
in our foreheads,
or our crooked
Songs and Letters
June 20, 2005