by Susana H. Case
When the old man died, he left a swarm
of guns in the apartment,
and a son
who put a mattress, his soft unicorn
in the middle of the living room.
He could sleep with less fear
on the rotted-wood floor,
doors dead-bolted, two locks each.
He monitored the rhythms of the wind.
The squeak of a neighbor’s wheelchair
grew a chorus of voices, fig tree
sprouted inside his skull,
brain matter battered as the sheetrock
walls, never telling him: relax.
He hesitated to voyage
the street, amass more food.
He shook at the starburst
of aisles, the memory of everything
boxed and canned, lighting as bad
as the last time he boarded a bus.
People came to look
at the apartment. He cussed
and wouldn’t let them in, so
an uncle carted him off someplace
safer. The new tenants
called each other honey, cringed
at the guns, salvaged the floors,
and replaced the doors.
With incense and chants, we burned out
the spirits of hoarded food,
wonder how much the father
imprisoned the son, how much the son
imprisoned the father.
IMAGE: Ritual with sage to clear the energy of a dwelling.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The prior owner of the apartment I currently live in passed away in the apartment and left it in the state described in the poem. Some of what’s in the poem I knew before I moved in. Some information was reconstructed afterward by talking to others in the building. And some of what is in the poem is imagined.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case’s newest book is 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014). Author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks, including The Scottish Café which was re-released in a Polish-English version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Opole University Press, she is a Professor at the New York Institute of Technology.