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I Want to Live in a Paper House
Sharon Black

Let’s just say I’ve learned nothing
from that foolish first pig who chose straw:
I want to live in a paper house.

When I say paper I don’t mean cardboard.
Besides, “a house of cards” is just an expression
like “glass houses,” which are not really glass
as much as the people inside are hypocrites.

Sure, a paper house can’t withstand mudslides
but neither could those million-dollar ones
in the San Bernardino Valley last winter.
But why dwell on the worst that can happen?
Why not design a house with the best days in mind?
Days of sun without wind, therein my patchwork
of multicolored construction paper is perched
on white sand stuck with paper roses
on pipe cleaner stems. And out back tacked
against a manila folder fence: charcoal sketches
of bike, clothespin bag, and garden tools.

So the walls of my house are paper thin, all the easier
to hear what goes on in the next room and record it
word for word on floors you can wrap a hoagie in.
See me rise from ink-stained knees, but only for
the delivery of the National Geographic.
Other callers are welcome if they carry letters
of introduction not on but instead of their person.

I want a house that can be rolled up into a ball
if necessary and tossed—hit or miss—into a yawning
mesh receptacle I’d just as soon call God.

You may want to live in a teepee or something Tudor
and once I even sent out Christmas cards that pictured
an igloo sitting in the middle of nowhere lit by the moon
and a few colored lights strung around the entrance.
But that was disingenuous because
I was just getting my way again.
Let’s face it, the igloo was made of paper;
inside it said Peace on Earth instead of there being
a pool table in the basement.

There’s no place like home but it’s the paper version
I want, starting with marriage, which they say is more
than just a piece of paper and I have to agree—
it’s reams and reams, too many to count
and you have to throw a lot out but not before
writing on the back of what is
already used and pretending it’s new.

I can hear us now, telling our children
not to waste paper, to think of all the people
living in real houses on which there’s no place to scribble,
poor people with many secrets living behind thick walls.
They’ll roll their eyes and challenge us to name one
and the wise-asses will have backed us into a corner
because if I’m living in a paper house the whole neighborhood
is paper and a map of the world is just that,
the world itself including that great
uninscribed tract, Antarctica, at the bottom of it all.
Having led sheltered lives we won’t be able to
name one such person, someone so destitute
as to live in stone or stucco, not one name
will come to mind though we know
from the newspapers they’re out there.

© Sharon Black

Cimarron Review
205 Morrill Hall
English Department
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK  74078