Celery Street

I dream of the house often.
Square white with a large porch,
plain wooden floors.
A house with an attic and winding chutes for coal and laundry–
we dare each other to go down–
and muddy streams where pollywogs live.
A paradise after the refugee camps,
after the sea voyage–
the captain throwing away his pornographic magazines when he learned
I had peeked at them.
The pages washed overboard,
leftover husks of a lost war.

In this new land of one cow
providing milk, cream, buttermilk.
a bowl of Cheerios tastes sweet and warm,
but in the attic there’s the princess corpse.
We hear her knocking each night,
trying to get at us,
the children who sleep upstairs.

In this new land,
a land reclaimed from swamp,
given to celery,
green stalks even-rowed across the black earth,
too foreign for our tastes,
we go with canned peas,
some potatoes,
brown-egged chickens.
We line up in matching party dresses,
evenly spaced.

If I drive back now I see the paint has peeled
from the shrunken house.
The steps lean.
Someone poor lives there,
I imagine, with lots of children.
Nothing seems to be planted,
but the muddy creek is still there,
and the mysterious factory far in the background–
the gray smoke rising through last fall’s cattails.
In the window a man shakes his fist,
starts to run into the snapshot of my memory.