Sestina for the Empty Nest

She dreams her mother is a large and lonely house
with attics she has never seen before, all filled
with dusty duct-taped boxes. She thinks, “I could not
make myself at home here.” For one, there are no beds.
Just crates of memories; uneasy, shifting thoughts.
Nothing she knows; this is some other woman’s past.

That morning at the deli she walks slowly, passed
by wing-tipped business men, their buttoned down houses
of double breasted punctuality. She thinks
we build small shells around ourselves, too scared to fill
the space around us with other people’s air, beds
with their soft breathing. And, certainly, she could not.

In her dream, people are made not of bone and not
of blood but of long stretches of hallway, things passed
through, walls of watercolors, kitschy statues, beds
unmade with sheets strewn careless, large and lumb’ring house
plants. Her impatient lover has a basement filled
with mortgages and cradles. Far too fast, she thinks.

She’d be an apartment with one bedroom, she thinks.
Or some old, haunted mansion, cobwebbed and cold, not
a Brooklyn brownstone. Nothing easy to be filled.
The sort that doesn’t dress itself up, always passed
by on New Year’s or Christmas Eve. Never a house
for fairy lights, no; more of one for empty beds.

It is too easy to strip the sheets; making beds
is such hard work. Her guests sleep on the couch. They think
they are unwanted. They are right. She wants her house
to empty. Those unfamiliar with it might not
avoid the creaky step, the fragile boards, pass
the locked rooms, the ones no one enters, with ghosts filled.

In her dream, she is a skeleton, an unfilled
room, a place where no one walks. The inch thick dust, beds
with untouched sheets, the cabinets stuffed with canned goods, pasts
unthumbed, She’s the steel frame of a skyscraper. Thinks,
there is virtue in transparency. Maybe not
so much warmth. There is evil in an unloved home.

Her mother did not run to sentiment. A house
had to be cleaned, beds made, cardboard boxes of past
laid away. She thinks love’s this, the way boxes fill.

Aviva Rabin-Court, Age 15, Grade 10, Hunter College High School, Silver Key

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