Rosemary Sullivan (1947-)
1She stands on the porch, late.
2The same light she saw as a child
3pins the mountain ash
4to the grass scattered with berries.
5Behind her, the room she was born in
6and the one where she hid her body
7to protect, like a secret
8until she could get it safely away.
9There were always too many lives in other rooms --
10the anxious man tied to a job for fifty years
11till the company paid him off
12with a piece of the building mounted
13on a bronze plaque. He needed to drink
14to see the joke. And the timid woman
15who filled the house with her bright red heart
16asking for nothing except a life.
17When they fought she would cower
18in the shrinking corners with her four sisters,
19each one planning escape into the arms of someone
20they would also have to abandon.
21Love is like that. It's the need
22you run from and return to
23always circling back to where you started
24like somebody lost.
25The houses retreat behind doors and the racoons
26begin their scuttle across the tired lawns,
27stopping to drink from sprinklers
28spreading a thin rain against the drought.
29She remembers the street the child lived on --
30a snow-tunnel, its ten-foot drifts pocked with holes
31she hid inside and watched --
32the street edged with the ditch that swelled
33to a sucking mouth in the spring
34and took her down once
35into its belly.
36Behind the doors other lives taunted
37with their order on loan from Eaton's,
38their sleek, stubborn brightness
39colluded in, like guilt.
40Mr. Goodman drank himself to death when the kids left
41and Mrs. Adams finally cleaned herself into a corner
42of the livingroom you couldn't enter with shoes.
43Each family carries its load of ordinary pain.
44She's taken ten years
45to know this, standing on a porch thinking
46of the slow decantation of lives
47and she can't put together its meaning.
37] Eatonís: former nation-wide Canadian department store.
Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Rosemary Sullivan or Black Moss Press permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: The Space a Name Makes (Toronto: Black Moss Press, 1986): 20-21. PS 8587 .U52 S6 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/15
Other poems by Rosemary Sullivan