Charlotte Matthews

Person, House, Tree

The only child bears down

on the paper: drawing the hiding places,

every place she might have dreamed of,

the unlit closet she sinks into

beneath stored bags of clothing,

heat from the chimney untraceable and fine as gossamer.

Is there anything else to be said?  

Like the very last moments of daylight,

the night will be dark, just like that.

But the house is a drawing, a child’s picture.

Outside, dried shells of tulip poplar

hold the snow perfectly.  Tree trunks mirror themselves

in the lake.  And on the blacktop, children chase their shadows.

Years ago, a friend’s mother, a woman I barely knew,

carved an etching of herself trapped behind a window,

the mouth so desperate I could say anything to her afterwards.




“Person, House, Tree” first appeared in Virginia Writing.