Bio Note: I am a grant writer and the poet laureate of my city, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, an honor that was bestowed upon me in the summer of 2020. I think being a poet who writes grants (or a grant writer who writes poetry) is a good combination of skills. Both require me to tell a good story in as few well-chosen words as possible. These poems arose out of the pandemic, with so much time spent contemplating my house.
My heart holds rooms, crowded with the furniture of old loves. Mismatched chairs gather in the kitchen’s gloom and a couch with sagging springs sports its original plastic. Time to clean out the pie safe and stereo cabinet. The mahogany buffet waits for the party to start. Wing-backed chairs ponder themselves and lamps with dangling crystals grace the end tables. Everywhere, beauty is waiting to happen. I see now, I must act the host. Restyle my heart, restore my soul. Make space for new loves, new art to decorate this singular domain.
The New House Reveals Itself
Winter rain on icy ground and nothing prepared me for pools of water everywhere, my basement floor buckling. What kind of membrane am I living in? Permeable, it seems. Drain tile, the veins and sump pump, the heart said the weatherproofing man. I did not know that a house had a heart. I search daily to find what muscle it is that pumps life through this structure that holds my edges secure. Windows for eyes, rooms for dreaming. The kitchen, a fire in my belly, the place where ideas are born. Then comes a day in spring, when tulips push through, tulips planted by hands not mine. I see a woman on her knees in the grass, burying beauty for some ingrate of the future. But, no, I will not be that. For, there, just there, I see it. Tender tips of salmon red, flamed with strokes of yellow. The heart of the house, making itself known to me.
I never really knew my house until I lived inside all day, every day. What used to be a rushing to get to the next shiny place has become a marathon of solitude as I wait for bread to rise. My heart beats in sync with the ice maker in my fridge, the sump pump in my basement, and the ceiling fan above my head. My bookshelves are sagging under the weight of pending knowledge. I have learned to measure time by the angle of light on the floor. How is it that once upon a time, I ran around town, scattered and maskless, breathing in what everyone else breathed out? Now, I sit in stillness, grateful to earn my living from home, privy to the persistence of mildew and the advice of the air conditioner. I have come to know doorknobs and breadcrumbs, dead leaves fallen from my house plants, and all the maligned secrets of dust bunnies. Sympathetic to the tea kettle’s sorrow, I bear witness to the confessions of my carpet. I am not a better housekeeper, just a better house knower.
©2022 Lisa Vihos
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