I used to wish for a cyclone
to come barreling down the alley
and hit this house, knock it roofless,
suck all the innards out,
leave it empty as an eggshell,
or take the whole thing
cleanly like a loaf
lifted off the pantry shelf –
not splintered, blown to bits
with pieces of belongings
(a broken skate tangled in cedar branches,
as if the tree had caught that boiling cloud
by its heel when it tried to make a fast getaway,
or a shirt hung on a nearby shrub,
waving to me like an old friend
hardly recognized from aging.)
No, not a sloppy job with mementos
left about for the heart to ache over,
but a clean sweep.
I'm not sure I want that anymore.
The years have taught me
that even without this burden of belongings,
I would still stoop from habit.
My life has left its mark
and is not the accumulation of what I've kept.
Written April, 1978. Previously published in the
Trinity Review, 1980 (27 lines, 162 words)