The man—Grandpa's friend—said,
Welcome to Heaven on Earth.
He wore overalls and climbed in
through the window.
Mary Kay, seven maybe, staying
with Grandpa over the summer.
Walking with Grandpa down the gulch,
picking gooseberries and black currants.
Purple on her shirt, on her fingers.
She'd accidentally bitten into a bug—
a little bitter worm she'd spat into her hand
and lost in the grass.
The man, Mr. Johnson, stood in the middle
of his unfinished house, pointed to one side.
The girls will sleep here. Pointed to
the other side. The boys will sleep here.
The sun fell full on their heads
through the open roof. Mary Kay remembered
the mole on the man's neck
The kitchen will be here. There'll be a nook—
here, by the window.
That had been the first time she'd heard of one.
A nook by the window.
A kind of bird.
Girls over here,
boys over here,
a bathroom and—
The men—towering through the void of the roof
into the blue sky, where turkey vultures wheeled
with mangled red heads—solid and monumental
as the bluffs shaped like noses
on the far side of the valley.
there were no girls,
Just an illuminated mole
on a man's broad neck
and a word like the name of a bird repeating—
And it was named for the sound it made above houses:
She, the adult Mary Kay, sang it:
The man climbed through
because there was
The glass is in the ocean.
The glass, a pane, floats in the ocean.
And then its edge slips under.
It's knifing down and you're
swimming for it,
and your ears pop until they can't
and your eyeballs are about to burst,
and it's cold,
but the glass just sinks and sinks,
even though it should lay flat on top of the water,
Just when you've almost caught up to it,
this shark drifts up out of the darkness
at the bottom of the sea,
swallows the glass and you
(it was always going to no matter
how far, how fast you swam,
how much you gave up).
Inside his belly you keep tumbling—
tumbling into another shark,
and another one,
getting smaller, smaller,
so small you fall between the molecules
that make up the glass.
There you sit,
inside the glass
inside a shark in a
shark in a shark
at the bottom of the
And if Sammy weren't with her,
Mary Kay guessed she wouldn't care.
Grandpa, who hadn't heard her, stirred
the beans. He used his good arm—the other
tucked up like a chicken wing.
Grandpa's bare feet on the boards
looked younger than they should,
though thick veins ranged over
the good, even skin and toenails reared
gently from their beds,
He broke into a
smile when he saw her,
though he wasn't
and not know
someone is there.
Go into our mother's old room,
the piano room, imagine her mattress
had rested on top of the piano.
She'd climbed down every morning
by stepping on the keys.
Sammy would play the sounds her feet
but sometimes the notes would accidentally
into little cascades
Mary Kay and Sammy hiked up the hill,
walked along the rim of the gulch, sister and brother,
to watch the Johnson house get wrecked.
The house had stood unfinished,
all this time.
The other houses of the valley—
glinting with bits of tin,
lacking shade trees—
looked less like permanent residences
and more like improvised dwellings
intended to be abandoned within hours.
The light changed them
minute to minute,
tearing them down,
reassembling the scraps—
runny, apologetic shadows.
The woman operating the high-ho
swung the scoop through
the remaining splinters
of the Johnson house.
Below the bare foundation,
Mary Kay imagined the ghost of the structure,
inverse of its former self,
blading into the earth.
Somewhere, just below the surface,
it carried out a life of its own,
The nook is in
is in the
is in the shark is in the
all this was once underwater—in fact,
Grandpa came walking
around the bend of the gulch,
He clutched an armload of antler sheds against
his chest like writhing snakes, the thin hairs
stirring at the edges of his scalp.
The last rays of the sun, long and red, flung themselves
over the rim of the gulch, clinging there,
leanly, and dropped.
Mary Kay stood in the threshold
of the dark house, waiting
for Grandpa. But really she was
for the piano.
The air of the house rushed,
cool, past her legs. A band of light
shone from under the door
of the piano room.
Mary Kay knew which boards creaked—
the ancient house, a submerged ship in the dark,
smelling like brine.
Stars shone, bioluminescence,
through the round, murky window
near the peak of the ceiling. The room,
always bigger at night.
More immense, the outdoors
pressing, the gulch—a deep ocean trench
in which lived
the most mysterious
Through the window, Grandpa bent over the antler pile,
stacking the complicated shapes with great
care, like a flower-arranger.
Mary Kay thought of a river of air surging through
the cattails, the willows, all along the creek
and the cottonwoods—
all the way to the Johnson's empty house.
The air from Grandpa's house—
the shipwrecked, briny air—
those silent unlived-in rooms.