portrait of house with visitor

by Lily Someson

I invite my father to sit down
in the poem. A kitchen, windows swelling
from the cold outside. I invite him into my space
which is to say we are near one another
for the first time. I would like to build a room
without a steel mouth. When I invite him in, holes
in his pants, punctured stars. I ask him if god exists
in captivity. A room with a stained glass window, we talk
about normal things

like normal people. A breakfast nook, then. Little salt and pepper shakers,
a kitchy tablecloth. I ask, Are the windows too small? He whispers,
to be black is to know death. He was in solitary for six months. My face,
uncanny valley as he struggles to look at me. Our noses are the same, carved flat
on round faces. This is fact, I think of what I know, I build. Make the house bigger, less
claustrophobic. I paste him into photo albums. A living room, then. A vintage chaise lounge, orchids
on the coffee table, decadence. In the house he talks slow, measuring his life. They cut his locs

in prison. In the poem they’re still there, but we have to pretend. He is twenty years younger, we paint
murals in the living room, we bake his mother's recipes, we fight over the remote. We bicker about the
news like real people do. I build him new locs, new head for them to rest on, a body that was born free.
I sew his pants, corduroys worn from walking, gardening, going to the store for milk. I'm playing god.
We’re still in the house, remember? We have to pretend. I paint the poem white with blue shutters. I
choose the furniture for him to sit on, a new bed, no metal in sight, white sheets with purple violets. I
build a poem around him, a world without confinement. Yellow light through a screen door, the
outside mocking us with its magnitude.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes