Poem of the Week | May 11, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “If A Realtor Asks What I’m Looking for, Here Is What I Will Not Tell Her” by Sarah Carson!

Sarah Carson is the author of the poetry collections Poems in which You Die and Buick City. Her poetry and other writing have appeared in Diagram, Guernica, the Minnesota Review, the Nashville Review and New Ohio Review, among others. She lives in Michigan with her daughter and two dogs.

If A Realtor Asks What I’m Looking for, Here Is What I Will Not Tell Her

Dogs behind storm doors. Dogs behind deadbolts. Dogs on broken glass. My father naked at the bottom of the staircase, bruised open palms, bleeding histrionics. Cardboard cutting a path through the living room where visitors’ feet would not touch the carpet. My mother in pictures holding her daughters tight to her sides. Boys on the porch asking to come in. Some Sundays my mother took us to the mobile home showlot, where we toured plastic-smelling rooms, islands in the kitchens, one bedroom for each of us. We imagined rooms full of new curtains, the places we would hang pages ripped from the racks at the cash register. We took the floorplans home and colored them in with charcoal pencils, taped them to the refrigerator door. All these years later, ask us how we know the boy who lives there now, and my sister will roll her eyes like pennies in a mall fountain, the boy who chased her down so many hillsides, followed her through every classroom in the middle school now sleeps every night in the same room where she slammed the door so often, Momma took it off its hinges. One day another boy will tour me through his loft apartment, the roof deck, the counter barstools, the door in the wall that swings into the adjacent building. How could any of us have imagined what he would find there: a time capsule of swivel chairs, straight razors, where somewhere in the dust Momma once stood at the wash basin, shifted her weight on the soles of her sneakers. Somewhere in those shadows Momma once dreamed of her own windows, hallways, bright, illuminated light fixtures, one more updo, one more pageboy, a door to which only she has the key.


Author’s Note

Since childhood I’ve been obsessed with houses: what happens in them, who lives in which ones, what they say about us and how they hold memories after we’re gone. This poem is an attempt at a family history of houses—and imagines an alternate family history in which a home is a safe space to escape into rather than to escape from.