We were house-hunting, the young new wife
And I, recently a grandfather for the second time.
I didn’t want some cookie-cutter confection
Of soulless, all-electric efficiency
Done inside and out in seven shades of neutral.
I found a real home
A hundred and forty years old on eleven acres
(“Needs some work,” the ad said cautiously.)
The patio stones were rough-hewn
And edged with deep, emerald moss,
The apple trees were old past bearing.
The ancient, heavy door creaked a tired greeting
And my wife said, “Is it…do you think…
Is it haunted?”
The outcome was already plain
So why not have some fun? “Naw,”
I said, “But the mousetraps
Go off by themselves, the lightbulbs pop out
If you mention a dead person’s name,
Sometimes hot water comes out of the cold tap,
And the last time a baby was born here
There was a shower of silver dollars
From the ceiling onto the kitchen table.
Look: you can see nicks in the wood where they landed.”
Her eyes rounded
And she hugged herself
Inside her winter coat.
I showed her the huge, deep zinc sink
Where they washed everything
Even the collie.
And the foot-wide, punkin pine floorboards
Not made for three generations.
And in the cellar, the rows
Of cheap, planking shelves
For preserves of pears, apples, and tomatoes
Put up in glass Ball jars, bought by the dozen
From any dry goods store in America.
I defined “dry goods store” for her.
I told her how a hundred years ago
Two little boys brought in a bushel
Of fresh tomatoes from the truck garden,
One holding each side of the basket, puffing,
So proud to be helping Mommy and Daddy.
I defined “truck garden.”
I told her there are two pecks in a bushel.
I might as well have been talking particle physics.
Afterward she stood outside
With her hands in coat pockets
And the cold wind wraithing her long hair
Silent, but with misery oozing out of every pore.
No reason not to accept the inevitable
And I do love her, so, “Hey,” I said,
“There’s a new house over on Kirkwood.
Never lived in. Let’s go check it out.
And I swear the old, narrow, mournful,
North-facing bedroom windows winked at me.
— Andrew Hubbard, Brown County