From Alphabetique: The Lives of the Letters
From inside the doorway of the wrecked house
Y looked out into the sun and saw
his long-dead grandfather as a young man, wincing.
On waking, Y leapt in hope when he thought perhaps
the dreamlight had been so strong that
Grandfather hadn’t seen him after all.
Y was the grandson whose foot had slipped through the roof,
nails and hammer flying, his single leg through the rot
up to the groin. It took sheer adrenalin
to lift his torso up through the shingles
and climb onto a safe beam to look down at Father,
so disappointed in him. Father had fixed that roof
when Grandfather was too old to climb, and now
when Father was too old, young Y was supposed to.
But Y left the hole in the roof ,
and traveled to his home in a faraway city and his job.
The next night he dreamed about Grandfather again:
Pop pushed his cap back, squinted, and yes,
he saw Y standing there in the wreckage.
That roof never was fixed. Raccoons got in.
With the paw prints still on the walls and beds,
Y’s father sold the house to the neighbors,
who tore it down. In a fluke of timing,
Y drove past the house, saw the demolition,
and took photos--almost as if in a dream.
Then he visited with his father and sped home
to his partner and his job and their own house.
The next night Y looked out
of the demolished house just as his grandfather’s
young face crumpled like fabric in a fist
at the vision of what he built with his own two hands
destroyed because a. . . a
. . . citified boy who was too clumsy
to patch the roof he patched and his son patched
had run away. Grandfather stared
into the single standing lintel as if the house
weren't there. This dream was before he built the place.
He was gazing at an orchard, wondering
if he could scrape up the cash to buy it,
the perfect place to build a house for his wife
and little boy, Y’s father.
“Are you still having dreams about this?”
Y’s incredulous partner asks over breakfast,
placing yolk-perfect eggs before him with his slender hands,
black hairs curling enticingly over the knuckles,
“That you’re solely responsible?”
“Oh yes,” Y sighs, “because
if it's somebody’s fault,
there’s a reason for being.”
This poem originally appeared in PN Review, UK