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by Lisa Rizzo

That phone number rang
in the blue crackerbox house
at 17827 Baker Avenue
in a manufactured town
called Country Club Hills.

Smack in the middle
of Illinois prairie,
soybean field
behind our suburban lawn.
There were no hills.

The day we moved in,
I sat on the bare tile floor,
long rectangle stretching before me.
I felt crumbly inside,
cried for the house before,

with cherry tree and grape vines,
white clapboard with green shutters,
stairs and dormer windows
like a house from a book.
But no, we couldn’t stay there.

We had to leave
like we always did,
one house right after the other —
until the one I remember most.
It was ugly but it lasted.

PHOTO: The author at 13 standing outside the blue house.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem began with a prompt to write about a telephone number you remembered. Even though I haven’t lived in that blue house for over 40 years, that telephone number is one I will never forget. I used simple language in an attempt to give voice to that unhappy ten-year-old child who had to leave a well-loved house.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Rizzo’s full-length poetry collection Always a Blue House (Saddle Road Press) is forthcoming in December. She is also the author of In the Poem an Ocean (Big Table Publishing, 2011). Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Two of her poems won 1st and 2nd prizes in the 2011 Bay Area Poets Coalition Maggie H. Meyer Poetry Contest. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.