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December 19, 2005

rhymes with rupture
and that’s exactly what the sky does,
some would have you believe.
You know those paint chips in abandoned rooms
that lie on windowsills like bits of eggshell.
This time I saw the source, a hole the size of a quarter,
struck as I was by an older, darker blue beneath,
that corollary of another soul
escaped to her maker
where surely it was warmer
this Christmas day,
heat on here only high enough
to preserve the pipes
the years she’d wintered elsewhere,
driven herself there, the county home,
to check herself in.

You see, my sister in search of a bigger house,
we were in her husband’s late,
ninety-two-year-old-grandmother’s place, eerily
empty despite their family, my brother’s, mine
and my mother, rummaging around, the furniture
intact, junk neatly stacked
on the dinning room table for the taking,
down to an address book, blank in spots
though not where my thumb stopped
the pages that sputtered under it:

Slowly we dispersed but first just stood,
thinking, maybe, like me, how a house
without bread is not a home
(I’d come upon my mother before a bare cupboard).

Then, with my nephew of four, I took the tour.

“Right here is where she died,” he said
at a worn spot on the carpet.
His cousins, of course, had lied.
But I made my eyes go wide, saw
on a wall a picture of her church,
and caught on the floor still another pile,
her Bible on top.
Here were the real remains, I thought
and thought how odd the body is decked
with her best jewelry
instead of a good book.

I suppose we left as hopeful as not.

After the holidays, halted at a toll booth
half way home,
I read a red bumper sticker ahead:


I thought of the nerve,
the fear.
I thought then of the house,
the line on everyone’s mind:
“The place has possibilities.”

We drove off.

And looking back, I saw the earth.

Written by Karl Elder

Categories: Finding Home Tags:
  1. December 20, 2005 at 4:16 am

    This poem is haunting in all senses of the word. Thank you.

  2. December 20, 2005 at 6:40 am

    I like this version of the bumper sticker with “unmanned.” In my area, they tend to read “…driverless,” a gender-neutral term that smacks of an odious polital correctness, I’d say.

    Thanks for this very challenging poem, with images and ideas interconnected in so many ways. I hope you’ll consider becoming a regular contributor to qarrttsiluni. We’d be most honored.

  3. Kathie Decker
    December 20, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Interesting interplay of emotion with observation and lovely use of foreshadow in final paragraph. Knowing the house involved and understanding the rend in the fabric of human life that any quiet death brings, I am perhaps more moved than some. Or, maybe it’s just because I am an older woman, empathetic with the struggle for dignity required of a past generation of women dying alone. In any case, thanks to the author for a sweet moment, a gentle pause for thought in an otherwise hectic day.

  4. December 20, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you so much for this contribution, Karl. I’ve read the poem three times now, each time getting something different out of it; I appreciate its complexity and the refusal to package the narrator’s experience in an obvious way; you have left room in it for each of us to enter with our own past, anxieties, hopes. And I echo Dave’s sentiment – I hope we’ll be seeing more of your work in these pages!

  5. December 22, 2005 at 12:04 am

    Such a sense of desolation, of fragility, & the presence of the unseen hovering raptor. Wonderful poem.

  6. Shannon
    January 7, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    I’ve been reading Karl Elder’s poetry for just about as long as I’ve been reading poetry. Karl’s process for placing hits-you-right-there words on paper may not have changed during this time, but I assure you that my experience in processing them has. These days, I begin reading each of his poems expecting to be wowed, and by the last word, I’m in awe of just how wowed I am – again. “Rapture” is no exception, so thanks for the delight, Karl.

    Hungry for more of Karl Elder’s work? His books A MAN IN PIECES, THE GEOCRYPTOGRAMMATIST’S POCKED COMPENDIUM OF THE UNITED STATES, and MEAD: TWENTY-SIX ABECEDARIUMS are three of my favorites. Karl’s also the editor of SEEMS, a fantastic literary magazine; has won a Pushcart Prize; and has been featured in BELOIT POETRY JOURNAL and THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2000. I was so pleased to learn that recently, his “Z Ain’t Just for Zabecedarium” won the thirteenth annual Chad Walsh Poetry Prize.

    I’m very much looking forward to visiting QUARTTSILUNI again! Thanks!

  7. danseravecmoi
    May 10, 2006 at 11:21 am

    first of all, rupture does NOT rhyme with rapture. it is merely a change of a letter.

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