Always it's Sunday, Mother offering herself
Outside, it's bric-a-brac houses on Knickknack Street.
I keep the score. Mother's nose, father's spine, aunt so-and-so's
Someone needs to hide the trash, tidy the bed,
what can enter? Why, just think what used to swing in our family tree!
in the back row, a missing frame in the reel-to-reel?
(True, model families are ever malleable. Consider children:
Outside, we are little-black-dress, obligatory brown shoe.
traipsing into the cellar where the eggs lie
In the book of tomorrow's towns, these girls grin
in this house of continuous dismantling,
A plain girl is a secret. A very plain girl is Susan.
Sometimes we're three. Sometimes we're she-
And? And will we become?
of brown plush? A bowl of wax fruit?
We have apparatuses. We've limbs.
Goodbye, milktooth. Adios, grin.
On "The Living Room": In a Balthus painting by the same name [1941-1943], I was surprised to discover a third, shadowy girl seated on a piano bench, watching the two other girls. This third girl is almost completely erased from the painting except the palimpsest of her legs. Her absence troubled me, and I wished to write her back into the painting.
On "Inheritance": In a recent conversation an older, British colleague told me that during the second World War, his mother preserved her ration of raw eggs in a pail in the cellar, suspended in a substance called waterglass, a substance the color and consistency of white paint. That detail, combined with hosting my family in New Zealand for two weeks, put the poem into motion.