You do not know what the other bodies imagine.
Margaret Christakos, Her Paraphernalia
Before they could move into the new house, the city managed to obliterate it. A mistake, they were told. A matter of blocks from a house scheduled for demolition, and instead, a single hydraulic behemoth erased what was to be their first home. Two numbers switched in the four-digit address and the work crew landed at the wrong door. It took less than an hour. She’s described it since as a sandcastle, set against tide.
Given they’d ended their lease, it now meant stowing crates and furniture into long-term storage. Runoff set in his father’s garage, his mother’s sewing-room.
She mourned. They took our house. The moonscape of interrupted earth on their lot. With a brand-new mortgage, they were suddenly homeless. A filled-in crater that had harboured their deepest hopes.
In her small studio, she spent part of the morning sketching a torso. Black marks across ribcage, ribcage, tenor. It quickly devolved into a blacktop of rage.
It was her third pregnancy, and the first to achieve a second trimester. Nearing the end of the sixth month, everything a haze. Her blood pressure rose; soft at first, and then further. She lived in a haze. Did I already say that? There was little else: her energy, eroded. Spilled out.
At least, she’d no double-vision. Not yet. Her doctors their eye upon. Midwives, as well. Her last chance at babies, and now, she a desert; with boundless emotions, she’d cried herself dry.
Reclining on her mother-in-law’s couch, she attempted deep breaths. She changed, with the tides. There was a tug on her, some. Just there. And she, in no position to resist.
She was as soft as water; dry as a dune.
Her mother’s ashes. She had set the metal urn on the hardwood, just there, in the centre of what once was their living room. What would have been.
Her mother, erased down to nothing, all over again. Where she lay in the lot.
When they first saw the house, it was their fourth that day, and fifteenth, overall. Their realtor, Donna, hopping from driveway to driveway across multiple neighbourhoods. A cat and mouse of two cars.
When they pulled into the rumpled driveway, this house felt different. A hedge, bay window. The smell of the rosebushes. A humming, nearly a sing-song.
When Donna’s back was turned, when his was turned too, everything spoke.
Marry me, said the yard. Said the sandbox. Two squirrels.
I do not wish to marry any of you, she replied. I do not wish to marry anyone. But I will live here.
He did a lot of yelling into the phone. He involved lawyers, police. Normally, she would have dealt with whatever came next, but she could barely see straight. He did so much yelling during that time, although never at her. And only in regards to their house, their beautiful dream-house.
She lay an afternoon on the couch in her grandmother’s family room. This was the room with the furniture covered in plastic, and ceramic telephone with gold trim. Where the piano lay, along the wall hanging. The stitch of a stag, leaping. Where children forbidden; seen, and not heard.
Until she pregnant, her grandmother had refused her entry. Not in here, she said. Now her grandmother gave her wide margin, and the occasional cup of tea. Drink this, she would tell her, spooning in honey.
Lawyers, guns and money. She’d been listening non-stop to Warren Zevon, awash in some kind of adolescent retreat. I won’t come out, she told him. She told them; she told anyone.
“Space camp,” he named her. She had been thrice as a teen, heading down into Florida for extended periods of exploration. Most of her peers from each group had gone on to work at NASA.
Once she’d announced this new pregnancy, the first she’d been able to, the television series she’d been appearing in had shifted her occasional role. “She enters the room carrying a laundry basket.” “She remains behind a counter the entire scene.” By the time she’d progressed, they’d found some reason to finally write her out of the show entirely.
Erase, erase. She was mother now, and then nothing. At least, nothing else.
Gel on her belly, tingly-cool. This is their third appointment with the same ultrasound technician for the sake of measuring the baby’s heart. Their baby, head down and spine out, uncooperative. The third scan in which the technician admits she still can’t determine a gender. At least, not decisively. She could guess, but that wouldn’t be useful. Fine, they say, fine. This is alright. They can wait.
On the monitor, she sees her baby’s heartbeat, the creepy outline of her baby’s small skull, unintentional grin, and she weeps. Silent, and happily bursting. She cries each time they go in. Her healthy, recalcitrant baby.
Their two lists of baby names expands and contracts, exponentially, until it finally peaks, and begins to reduce down to reason. They are so close.
After six weeks, new construction finally began on the lot. A clean slate, so to speak.
She imagines her mother’s spirit blended into every inch of the property; every piece of the house. And she is pleased.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent titles include The Uncertainty Principle: stories (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection A perimeter (New Star Books, 2016). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Christine McNair), The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, a regular contributor to Open Book and both the Drunken Boat and Ploughshares blogs, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers.