We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
It was the habitat of ghosts, and a black suitcase stenciled AKC
for my mother, Anne Kobrinsky Cohen, who is a spirit now.
There was writing on the walls, some ours, some scrawled
before our parents ever sifted us from dust of stars.
I wrote my first poem under its slanting ceilings, lying on
my belly on the ruby Persian rug with nowhere else to go
and nothing else to do but fly the attic closer to the heavens
in both summer heat and winter cold, offering
an early lesson on beauty’s isolation.
For only in the spring and fall we played up there.
Once we tried to spend the night, but fled,
I last, to the less haunted second floor.
When we were very small, walking, running, yes,
but incompletely severed from our infancies, my sister and I
journeyed to the basement to investigate the laundry chute.
We shoved aside the wicker basket full of linens tumbled down.
Then, far up as they would go, we sent our eyes.
We were still part and parcel of the house, bookended
by its garret and its nether worlds. Up the chute, to speed our gaze,
this chant: “I see the attic!” in our sing-song style.
A wishful lie. The attic wasn’t on the route. It had, besides,
a guardian on its door with sleepless wood-whorl eyes,
two tiny knots through which to breathe,
a hungry mouth striated shut.
In fear of him, my sister offered daily kowtows,
flattened out before him on the carpet in the hall.
It’s true, I swear it is, though she denies it now.
CHARLENE FIX’s books of poetry: Taking a Walk in My Animal Hat (Bottom Dog Press 2018), Frankenstein’s Flowers (CW Books 2014), and Flowering Bruno: a Dography (XOXOX Press 2006); her prose homage, Harpo Marx as Trickster (McFarland 2013). Emeritus English Professor, Columbus College of Art and Design, she co-coordinates Hospital Poets: readings at Ohio State University Hospitals & Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, is mother of three, grandmother of two, and an activist for peace and justice. Jewgirl, a poetry finalist for the Sexton Prize, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in the U.K. in fall 2021. Her website: Charlenefix.com