Katie Schaag
The Attic

after Lisa Robertson’s “Wooden Houses”

And we said we would climb the rickety bridge

And you are a flowering ledge.

And my hair grew out

And we locked you away for the winter.

And you are a bundle of shivering strings

And you are a drying orchid.

And you are not ready to give up your ghost

And you are chewing the rinds.

And you are named as the portrait of a city

And you are a burning garage.

And you are erasing your name from the notebooks

And you are a dream in a train on the sly.

And you are keeping your animals in cages

The animals are asking for food.

And you are the mirror staged tall in the corner

Your lofted mattress has nearly collapsed.

And you are burrowing into the corner

Where the darkroom builds itself.

And you did not leave a scrap on your plate

And you do not lie near the furnace.

And you abandon the photographs

And the rusty organ swallows them.

And you know you’ll be back in the spring

When the ledges are smooth and dulled.

And you skirt the barbed-wire fence

Clicking your steeled toes.

And you twist your mouth

To give and chew and keep.

And you finger the switchblade you keep in your pocket

And the seventeen apartments clamber for prime slots in your lengthening diorama.

And you are your mother in face and in speech

The history stages its comeback.

And you will change your name

But the marks are not scrubbing away.

And your hair in the ziplock bag

The edges peel and blur as the scent fades.

And your animal puppet heads are abandoned

In the alley in the rainstorm.

And your stories are left in the book in the attic

As your steeled toes click along.

Because the thing desired

Absorbs desire as absence.

Because of the empty clocktower

You are the velveteen stairs.

Because you were raised by the television

You pattern your speech like a warrior queen.

The marks are not scrubbing away

But the ledges are smooth and nearly dulled.

Picking through your drawings and photographs and scarves

People move on.

The city has changed

I speak with split tongue.

I speak with split tongue

I speak with split tongue.

It is a stiff mattress

It shakes clean everything it can’t survive.

It was a muddy sinkhole

Like you’d drawn the lines of my angles and curves from a picture you saw in his room.

Or an object that speaks of its previous owners

Or the woman who says she forgets.

Sometimes the framework expands with an inhale

Assuming the vessel will loosen its ties.

The sprain is arranged to display the blued bone

The sensors detecting the grafting of points.

The videotape shows two girls on a train

The train splits and cracks.

Now we are picking our way through the junkyard

The gate we leave swinging erases our trail.

Now it is summer

And the abandoned attic clambers for a slot in your diorama.

To survive his mattress

We abandoned everything.

To survive our story

I split my tongue.

Whether or not the switchblade is true

You twist your mouth at the hungry animals.

You are resting in some corner of my body

A swallowed object softly speaks an echo of its name.

The animal heads might puppet your hunger

You attempt to rationalize this.

You are the shots firing silent

You are a ghost on the tracks.

You bottle the energies you wish to preserve

In objects you hang from your neck.

You sleep with a man

You are certain he will be your revolutionary.

You tie your hair in a bundle of shivering strings

You fade as your scent on your hair in the bag.

You are the rickety bridge burned beneath my eyelids

Your lips arranged like a split railing.

Your words are drying on the edge of the rail.