Oshkosh, WI

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First, the road:
turn right at the house with white columns and dogs
leaping against the black iron gate,
left alone while their owners, a couple
architects you have never met,
take a raft and float in the bracken
water of the channel.
Past the plastic deer with wine-
bottle antlers. The plump gnomes
toppled over in the trees.
Left, then, and there is a green
field overflown with water and
swilling in the water are flies,
shimmering in a reedy world
of yellow stalks and cool gray mud.
You know what this water tastes
like, the itch of flies in your nose.

Look up: see: the house
turns the color of moss
after a storm.
The barn is dark. Park in the open
door and be careful of the nails,
glass shards and rivets. Do not
touch the scythe on the wall.

In the house it smells of the underside
of the boat that rests in its
springtime berth in the drive: water
pooled in plastic and foam blocks
choked with mildew. On the couch
an afghan uncurls like some matted
orange tabby. But that is downstairs,
and you are going up,
up past the kitchen with tearing
brick walls—up past your grandmother’s
bedroom, where pearls hide in boxes
of snipped hospital wristbands and death
certificates. To the top
where it is hot and each bedroom door
closes against the dust your
grandmother cannot see.
Your father’s bedroom: a blue
floor, a carved tusk tooth
from a sperm whale. Twin
beds sit and wait, uncomfortable
floral quilts splotched like a moth’s
shedding wings.
Entering this room is like stealing:
there will be no consequences
but you will never be yourself
again. Like prying open the heavy-
lidded clamshell dug up from under
your feet in the lake, drawn
dripping to the surface. The thick
tongue, when open: barely pink,
sticky. The shock of seeing something
you always knew was there, that
you had to break to see.

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