Ten pound art book about Berlin. Black and whites
of a bear rifled down in a square, boys in sun on rubble,
a woman wearing a gas mask pushing a pram.
I was examining each photo for a glimpse of street corner
or sidewalk, wondering if it could be the spot
where my ancestor the roofer’s head
smashed into the pavement when he fell, the loss
that earned the payout that put his children on a boat
that put me here, when I smelled something burning,
but what began as an acrid odor softened
to the familiar scent of bonfires, signature fragrance
of the dying season. I never know where it’s coming from,
but in it there’s always that warm anticipation
of Halloween I remember, and within that the disappointment
when it was never like the movies: no New England
facades, no sidewalks choked with kids, there weren’t
enough of us, and yet I hear children’s laughter
like I’m there again, not in the memory, but the expectation—
outside the window a girl is filming on her phone
another girl tossing handfuls of red maple
over her head. I can see on the screen the video
playing in a short, closed loop. The leaves go up,
then are rewound into her hands, never falling all the way
into the grass over which they’re scattered now
after she dropped them when suddenly a firetruck blared by,
awaking at my feet the dog I’m paid to keep alive.
Copyright © 2019 by William brewer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“I love housesitting. It's like living in an alternate reality. Everything is just a little different. I still feel like me, but because I'm in someone else's material life, the present doesn't link up with my past. I find that inhabiting this disjunction unlocks deep, and often forgotten, parts of memory, while also casting a strange spell over the moment. For that reason, I cherish it.”
William Brewer is the author of I Know Your Kind (Milkweed Editions, 2017).
Date Published: 2019-05-10
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/housesitting