Dear cottage: my grandparents dwell in you,
bordered by deep beech, spruce, and fir.
Standing on your balcony overflowing
pink and white verbena, they watch me
walk up the gravel path. I’ve fetched milk,
still warm, from the dairy down the road.
Can you smell the brook where minnows glint
fast over stones toward the shallow Staffelsee,
its peat bog bright with sedge and autumn
crocus? I open the door to your kitchen.
My grandmother has heated water
on the wood stove, poured it into a tin tub
in which I’ll bathe.
Dear 1914 Tudor
Revival with herringbone brick and slate roof:
We feel the heft of forty-seven wooden
windows and doors, the red tile terrace framed
by hemlocks, boxwoods with their oddly
human smell. Built before cars in a suburb
now Baltimore’s inner city. We restore
you with work that erases other work,
pitch into which we sink. We remove walls,
replace pipes, scrape and paint, sand and wax.
Add daffodils, wild geranium, lavender.
How lovely to sit inside watching rain
drain onto garden plants. Better
still to see it stop. At dusk I stride, keys
sharp in my hand, sirens in air.
We sell at a loss and move in a hurry,
your promise left behind—
Dear tract house
with a mountain in back: I like your plainness,
your deference to grandeur. We live
quietly. Ermine slink along the stone
wall, coyotes pose on the crest
of the old lake bed. Rocky alkaline
soil. Lemon balm and parsley, myrtle
spurge and cheatgrass. The county sprays
and no one’s told. I ask you, is any weed
that bad? Our neighbor’s beehives die. I loved
their flowery honey from trumpet vines.
The dead bees—broken paper shells—emit
a scent of musk.
Dear place in which I’ll die:
I like to think you will radiate heat
under wood and travertine floors, old woven rugs.
Big windows. On a wall, the painting of two
women just about to kiss. How to live?
I mistyped love. A home as hospitable
as wool, though I don’t know yet where you’ll be.
In the last third of my life I want a dream
real and fixed, a dwelling not obscured
by clouds. And yet I know
I only spend the day—