First-Time Home Buyer
Address in hand, we search the musty
city directories of the ’30s,
compile a list of names and professions,
and scan microfiche at the WPA library
before finding an obituary that reads,
“ushered into the next life
two evenings ago at home.”
Death has passed through this house
with his scythe, though you will not find
it checked neatly in the inspector’s paperwork
alongside words such as radon and termite.
The only traces might be the small scratch
across the wood floor in the foyer,
a slight tint of rust in the nail heads.
But I vow not to stay awake tonight
listening for creaking boards or muffled voices.
We will not be haunted by the past, only nudged
forward by the present. Let’s leave our fears,
like matters of decay, to the unknown
will of ageless insects moving silently
between the walls and under the porch.
I’ll imagine the habits that powered
these faceless names across our floorboards,
the secrets weighing down their long-gone hearts
while they took rest behind this bedroom door.
And I’m certain I can sense their remnants—
powerful and honest–pulling us like small magnets
into the welcoming and warm center of this home.
Letter to a Secret Friend
For Willis Barnstone
I am your secret reader
on crisp May mornings spent
in crowded commuter trains
and shuttle buses. Secret
though we met on the edge
of North Dakota once.
We were both younger then
and in a strip-mall wine bar
you flirted with innocent
senility between the woman
I would marry and Greek
nomenclature, entertaining us
as if we were honored guests.
No doubt you soon forgot us,
just grad students in love,
lost among your stockpile
of life’s artifacts and travels.
So let me linger with you
this morning, inside the hush
of paged ink, before entering
the gray world of cubicles
where I receive a paycheck
and secretly scribble stanzas
for you, my secret friend.
Fall has thrown its bright colors
over us and the late-year heat
has vanished with the candy corn.
They feel their first World Series
trophy within reach across the bay,
while we have turned our hopes
to the yearly promise of next season.
I’m preparing to suffer through
the long malaise of the hot-stove.
But from the single-bedroom bungalow
beyond the sagging redwood fence
sharp trumpet notes come faint
and teasing this morning.
And the leaves shaking loose
in these cool bay breezes
sound like the shuffle of brushes
across the snare and cymbals
as they land upon each other.
If I just close my eyes and press
a cold ear against knotholes
in the boards—listen to the trumpet
blowing in bursts high and fierce,
claiming the morning with electric flashes
of a crisp jazz solo—then for a moment
I can bypass the languid winter
and jitterbug my way into
the first welcoming sounds of spring.
ANDREW JONES currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area where he works as an editor for a textbook publisher. A graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, his writing has recently appeared in publications such as Ghost Ocean Magazine, The Fine Line, Farmhouse Magazine, and Poetry Midwest, among others.