Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Boarding House

My room
always smelled sour
like vinegar, cabbage,

had a Roman column,
sixteen foot double doors—misaligned,
with a thin triangle of visibility.
I would put a blanket between,
seal off the light, muffle the talk
from the living room.


If I didn’t plunder
the storage piled four foot high
in one corner—black trash bags,
cardboard boxes, a wingback,
two burnt-out TVs:
the cockroaches kept their


On hot nights
I ran the swamp cooler.
It sounded like a revved-up motor.

I slept
on a metal frame bed
needing WD40—it was hell
when the train rumbled on
across the street: structure and body,


She’d said, rent’s 50 dollars
a week,

meals are 20 extra
First time in the kitchen—I declined:

on the counter sat
pickle jars without lids,
dirty silverware,
a two year old Sugar Smacks box;

I opened two chest freezers
filled with produce and meat
burned and turnin’.


Mrs. Elkins made it clear
guests were to leave
by 10 P.M. and that no
woman was ever to spend the night.

Said she’d had problems
with whores before.


The previous tenant
left a white letter envelope
containing colored condoms
under the mattress.

I used them for practice,
watching porn on a cabinet television:
70's style projection.


I took showers
late at night, mornings
brushed my teeth
outside with the spigot.

Time and again
told the old woman
not to wash my laundry
and that I still
don’t want to eat your porkchops


Reclined in her La-Z-Boy,
cane propped, golden under the lamp,
she’d hold me up telling stories:

of roaming through the 40's
as a traveling insurance sales woman
bringing the wealth of death,

of the first boy she took in,
how she put shoes on his bare feet
and worked him in the chicken coop,

about how her husband lay dying
and saw Jesus

and told her.
The bedroom was dark, she said.

Moonlight on the wall
like his presence.


Lyle Daggett said...

Wow, I really like this. Wonderfully evocative. I can feel the dense air and sticky heat on my skin. I love how the details (swamp cooler, Sugar Smacks box, brushing teeth outside with the spigot) pull me into the poem.

Brian Boutwell said...

Hey, thanks! Lyle.

Pris said...

I like this a lot, too! Good write.