1 May 2013

Living room

The living room was all that the world
could see of the house we lived in
that was built on a hill, it was sunken
lower than the rest of the rooms,
a cold space like a grave expecting someone.
No headstone or garlands, in that room
of our house on a hill, and because
the master chambers were lower still,
not sunken but at the level of the world,
we slept with death as with the living.
That house—bare, if not for rare pieces
of antique wood furniture, one table,
varnished chairs and cupboards my folks
had bought when they got married,
greeted the intruder with its silence.
And so it was not a bunker, never meant
to be one, just a room sunk into the earth
and eyeballing the neighbours with its one
big pane. And perhaps that's why they came
at night to disturb our sleep in such a way,
like a sudden affair during prayer time;
our prayers, and three square meals a day,
were all conducted in that same room
of the house on a hill where we lived.
In the evening, before we went to bed,
the kitchen was a furnace, no mantle
above the black tin stove, no portraits
of sullen old relatives to eyeball us
in half darkness, and though we struggled
with true decisions we never identified
the family with any of the killings, ever,
but found ourselves in the slow flames
of knots of nuggets, making us glow
in the kitchen of the house on a hill
with a sunken room, where we lived.

2 comments:

Matt D said...

No headstone or garlands, in that room
of our house on a hill, and because
the master chambers were lower still,
not sunken but at the level of the world,
we slept with death as with the living.


I love these lines. I'm not sure if I get this or not, but what it reminded me of is the Buddhist custom in Japan of sleeping with the body of the deceased for a night before cremating the body.

I'm infatuated with the entire poem.

Rethabile said...

Thank you, Matt D. :-)