Brittany Perham

The Curiosities

I don’t believe in poetry. This might be the last poem.
The neighbor’s Pekinese barks his little head off
every time I unlock the door. The lock is loose, I can turn it
with a knife. I raise African violets
like those my father used to bring me:
stereoscopic purple, four yellow fish-eyes to a flower.
They make my window
my childhood window.
There were three steeples,
and on the rooftop opposite, a wooden owl.
The seagulls never failed to be fooled.
The mourning doves in the gable woke me up, woke me up, woke me up.
I grew up and behind me my brother grew up.
“Bye-bye,” I told my father.
I’ve been living away
on this other coast:
Mexican grackles, saguaros in the south, it snows in the mountains,
bike paths, pie cutter, sex. So many curiosities!
A bridge built to withstand earthquakes.
Earthquakes. Pencil sharpener
in a pool of wooden flakes.
My father has La Caja China ready in his yard.
A grown man could lie inside.
I hear he has shaved off his beard, which I hear
had turned entirely gray.
Because I give those flowers too much
or too little water, my lover cares for them.
When I speak to my mother, I see her in my childhood
house. In my mother’s house,
here we are at Christmas.
Once I saw my father’s two taupe rooms
at the Extended Stay America in a hitch of the highway’s suburban loop.
This was no place to live, on the highway’s suburban loop.
This was all a long time ago.
Any passersby can see me with my violets:
There is no privacy.
I keep my hair clean, and long. It ties itself up without a pin.
They say my father has a lovely house and tomatoes trellised up the porch.
But the intelligence is old.
Any passersby can see the ultraviolet blue, the little yellow eyes.
The power plant trilled white smoke from its one thin lung.
See it from the playroom window.
I chewed until polish came off in my teeth.
My father is preparing La Caja China for a hog.
His butcher has split the rib cage and laid the halves flat.
My mother held my head in her lap.
My lover holds my feet in his hands.
My brother and I listened from the breakwater.
From the Willows we heard the sirens
of Skee-Ball machines spitting out their hundred tickets,
GRAND PRIZE, when the wind was right.
For a hundred tickets: a plastic kaleidoscope, pencil
sharpener shaped as goldfish,
pirate’s eye patch.
My father loads the box with coals.
Here September is the hottest month.
The flies dress the apples up in black lace.
There is no lung-fill green.
My father injects the mojo beneath the skin with a marinade syringe.
When he is very afraid, and though we are mostly grown up,
my brother asks me to lie beside him.
Father, you were right
when you said I am different now: I am different now.
Tonight you will feed your forty friends.

Brittany Perham
“The Curiosities” is from The Curiosities (Parlor Press, 2012).