Selections from If I Take You Here

Martha Carlson–Bradley


The outer edges the first to go,

the place that memory makes
 has trouble staying whole,

 the open barn a square of black

where a single shaft of light

hints at depth.

As kitchen cupboards soften,
  dim, colors of wallpaper

  drain away: still,

  the rooms are furnished: table, bed,
 a lamp, left burning.

 The cellar door, somewhere,
lets loose its breath of coal.


I find the closet, open it.

In the sudden draft
empty coat-hangers sway.

They ring, faintly.         
No shoe

abandoned by its mate.

No orphaned glove.

On the floor lies a comb
and one ticket of admission

torn in half.


He's left his bifocals behind,
folded between the glass of water,

the book of matches.

Cellophane on his Luckies
reflects the light;

and burn marks stripe the pantry shelves,
the bedside table.

By an open magazine
a line of smoke wavers.


A fuzz of early leaves tints the hills.
I'm back just in time, this time,

for the aftermath, heaps of board
and shingles at my feet

as laths that held in plaster
release the stink of dry rot.

I stumble. The sun bears down,
glare on shattered glass.

Linoleum tilting in jagged continents,

a fracture courses through the valley
of a cup: black as dirt

each bend and tributary,
the smallest of waterways.


Exactly the hue of old photographs,
the Ouija Board says Yes and No.

And the sun is smiling, but not the moon,
one star only                                 
above the cryptic alphabet.

The row of numerals no one adds up:
the bottom line: Good-bye.


The bedsteads preserve every chip and scratch
as the ceiling slants down on either side,

a narrow passage dead-center
for standing upright.
           I slept here sometimes
and the room darkens now

to show me again how to listen for thunder
the rumble of a train.

Cars taking the corner
make shafts of light,
            slow at first,
careen around me.

Copyright © Martha Carlson–Bradley

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