Returning To My Childhood Home Thirty Years After Foreclosure
From across the street in my rental car,
first thing I notice is the teardrop-shaped
juniper my father and I planted
when I was eight, grown taller now
than the roof, covering what was then
my bedroom window.
At the front door,
I ring the bell and mourn the loss of our brick
planter attached to the porch, the four o’clocks
I grew from brightly colored packets of magic
seed, mail-ordered from Better Homes and Gardens.
I caress the doorframe, wonder if it was the replacement
we had to buy, if I were the only boy that ever saw
his father walk through this door, splinter it
away from its hinges.
I remember the night—
playing on the living room rug, my mother yelling
in the kitchen at my father, her breaking into pieces
a burner cover on top of the stove, repeatedly
hammering exclamation points with an iron skillet,
screaming my father was never home, so she might as well
destroy every damned thing in the house.
always needing to prove himself better at destruction,
translated his PTSD into staccato sounds—
cabinets emptying, the shattering of God-
damned plates and mugs, our best china flung
against the wall.
When my mother threatened to call
the cops, my father went for his sawed-off shotgun,
dared her to dial the phone, loaded a single red shell
into the breach and clicked it shut.
I covered my ears,
tracked my father’s boot steps into the front hallway,
mother’s muffled words trailing behind—little deaths
nipping at his scarred ears; marching into the front yard,
he filled the dark air with buckshot.
I can still hear the clack
as my mother locked the door behind him, the crack as it split
in two as he walked back through it, the concussive sound of it
smacking the floor—“Don’t ever try to lock me out again!”
After gathering his bags, he walked back through the emptiness
he had opened up in our house, loaded his truck
and gave himself back to the road.
I ring the doorbell again.
Different notes sound from those tones heard back then. A slight man
in shorts with coarse gray hair on his chest cracks open the door—
“Yes?” he says in broken English. “I grew up in this house,” I say,
“and was wondering if I could come in just for a minute or two…”
I hear a woman’s voice call from deep inside,
the rattle of a swamp cooler fan, the motor’s whine; I feel a chill
of air as he shakes his head and shuts the door, leaving me outside,
standing with one foot on a stranger’s porch, the other on what once was
a flowerbed—now dry unforgiving sand, runneled with long shadows.
About the poet:
Terry Lucas is the author of two full-length poetry collections: In This Room (CW Books, January 2016) and Dharma Rain (Saint Julian Press, October 2016). In addition he is the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks: Altar Call, selected by the 2013 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival for the anthology, Diesel; and If They Have Ears to Hear, winner of the 2012 Copperdome Chapbook contest (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2013). He has received numerous other writing awards, including the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Feature Award in Poetry, the fifth annual Littoral Press Poetry Prize, and six Pushcart Prize nominations.
Terry’s poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in dozens of national literary journals, including Best New Poets 2012, Green Mountains Review, Great River Review, PoetryFlash, and South 85 Journal. He has taught in the Chicago public school system as a Master Poet in the Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center’s Writing Center, and is a guest lecturer for the Dominican University Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing. Terry is a 2008 MFA graduate of New England College, having studied under Gerald Stern, Maxine Kumin, Alicia Ostriker and Michael Waters. He is the former Co-Executive Editor of Trio House Press, now serving as an Assistant Editor in order to devote more time to his own writing, as well as to his poetry consulting business. More about Terry and his work can be found here.
Image: “Untitled” by Axel Bergk, Martin-Luther-Str. 20, 20459 Hamburg, Germany. +49 151 42 43 2025