It was messy. Outside their abandoned house, shaking my head
at the grey of cricket-eaten lumber, I wondered if over
the years that charcoal portrait of Lincoln in the living room
had not caused the house to lean like the weather blown
barbed-wire fence. The angles of the roof hunched
like their backs. A broken board and inside, a beehive.
I walk the cement path that has frozen so cold so many
times it lies in crooked pieces. The deep ground
still frozen in July, the brown grass tickles my hips. Complete
kidney failure after pneumonia did him in and cancer combed
her body like the plough scrapes the soil. I should not be afraid,
but I watched her drop the water glass, her eyes falling backward
into the seizure. At the front door, swallows fly from the rafters
of the roof. They would swoop down to eat crickets from my
grandfather’s fingers. My grandfather—a tractor and overalls.
He used to tell me that I had his longevity genes. No matter
how quickly it comes death happens too soon. The hole
where my sister put her leg right through the rotten porch
is now covered with plywood scraps and red shag carpet
that act just like the phrase don’t worry, they lived a long life.
Death does not skip a generation, like hairlines or heart conditions.
I open the front door they locked with a butter knife. Basement
stairs worn white. Downstairs I’ll find among stacked sewing
machines and families of rats one more reason not to be afraid.