|Featured Poet -
Shaindel Beers is the author of two
full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009)
and The Children's War
and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing. She teaches
at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, and serves
as Poetry Editor of
Contrary Magazine. Learn more at
This Old House
This is the moose “Welcome to Our Home” sign he bought
garage-saling because addicts just trade in their addictions
for new ones. Heroin for yard-saling for Mountain Dew.
This is the kitchen where he called me “Sarah” for Sarah
Palin making the elk chili just right. The kitchen where
I made the pie he said wasn’t a real pie because the
wasn’t moist enough, where I processed more apples
than I weigh while he slept though we both worked all year
tending the trees because I could do all the work, but
he couldn’t do “women’s work,” or what was the point
of having a wife? This is the kitchen where another he
ripped out a wall, tore up a floor, erased all evidence of
the other man. Never finished. Left a sign that announced
the kitchen was his, diner style in bright chalk. This is
the dishwasher I couldn’t load right because I’m fucking
retarded because no one ever taught me a fucking thing,
and he was just trying to teach me, but I never listened.
I’m fucking useless at home and should go back to the office
where I’m good for something. This is the bathroom where
I spent too much time getting ready. Where I looked in
the full-length mirror before he asked, “Is that what
you’re wearing?” every day. Some days he was just
kidding. Some days the browns didn’t match. This is
where another he ripped out a wall. Didn’t finish it.
Where I got yelled at for not caulking the grab bars.
Where I could have let poison mold grow through
the whole house. Was I fucking stupid? Didn’t I know
how to take care of things? These were simple repairs
I should be able to take care of myself. This is the room
where my female body was so disgusting, he had to buy
a new trash can because I should be ashamed of
my periods. Hide all the secrets of my body even
from him. This is where he was showering when
I asked why there were all these messages from her
on his phone. This is the cabinet where I kept the pills
to keep from getting pregnant and the pills to get pregnant
and the pills to make me the best incubator and the pills
to keep me the quietest puppet. To make me unable to feel
the blowups, the nothings, the death by a thousand cuts
And this is the bedroom—
where sometimes I was so sexy
and sometimes I was a good girl
and a dumb bitch and a stupid cunt.
And once there was a he who fucked me
ten times a day—and this was control
and once one who wanted me once a year
and this was control. This is a new doorknob
because once I locked the door
just to stop the yelling,
and he pulled it off.
You might want to know
which he was which. That isn’t the point.
What I’m trying to say is that there were
I wasn’t in my own body.
in this house that
I don’t know how
III. (Things that I threw away)
The curtains because I have nothing to hide.
The curtains because while I was decorating
for Christmas he was having an affair.
The curtains because when the sun shone through
the red ones all I could see was Othello suffocating
Desdemona in the red silk sheets of their marriage bed.
Any of the underwear he ever liked. Any of the underwear
he might have touched. Underwear, because he asked
the other woman what kind of underwear a super mom wears.
Our wedding rings, I tied with twine
to an art installation on memory
while my students watched.
The pie pans, the loaf pans, the apple mill.
And lastly, my heart, my heart, my heart—
IV. (This Summer)
My son and I color in bed, and he tells me, “You’re a princess,
and I’m a knight.” He says that he’ll rescue me.
“What if I’m a princess and a knight?” He tries drawing
a princess with a sword. He asks, “What about dragons?”
“What if the princess is the dragon?” I ask him. “What if
the fire?” We go outside. Take breakfast to the porch. See how
close to not-human we can be. See how close the finches
come to landing on us. Even today I was still enough that I
feel the vibration of a hummingbird’s wings on my cheek. It felt
like a million blinking eyelashes. We listen to the sparrows
disassemble the house. If we go into the garage, they are
The attic I had to squeeze into to reset the garage door is
with their clamor. They could fly the garage away at any second.
This is my summer of climbing high enough to see two states
at once, of dreaming what animal I’ll be in my next incarnation,
of the deer and me studying each other as sisters. This is the
of wildfires disappearing houses in every direction—
and I’m not even afraid.
V. (The Porch)
I am learning the language of starlings and doves,
of house sparrows, and finches. Each species has
a favorite seed. Favorite type of feeder. The doves
move from telephone pole to tree, occasionally
to porch. Are the most wary of me. Starlings,
the next. Speckled bodies drift down to peck suet
from metal cages chained to the fence.
When I am in the house, they flood the yard,
twenty to forty at a time. Disappear when I enter
their world. The sparrows treat me like a servant
who lives in another part of their home. Line the roof
until I fill the feeder. Chirp so loud the cheap aluminum
gutters vibrate until they are satisfied. Finches
send a scout to see what I am doing. If the ladder
is out, if the feeders are filled, if I have turned on
the spigot. Until everything is to their liking,
the scout flies at me over and over. Little brave one,
looking out for his flock. I sit amidst the ruin
and watch their lives. Next to me, the chairs I repainted
after he left them in the yard to rot. The hole burned
into the deck by the meat smoker he left unattended.
Each day, the same. Coffee on the porch in the morning.
Beer on the porch at dusk. Cue the hummingbird. Cue
the yellow swallowtail. This is the only certainty I need.
It’s tempting to start over – a brand new life. There is a cabin
just off a hiking trail I’m in love with. I could take wildlife
collect pine sap for my friend the herbalist. Still, it’s
that will enable me to make a living. The house for sale
around the block is too expensive, is next to the woman
my second husband had an affair with. At what point
isn’t everything triggering? At what point might my life
be mine again? There are experts who help you throw away
everything connected with abuse—this sexy, one-shouldered
top, the rib brace hiding on the floor of my closet. But
at what point isn’t that everything? When do you decide
not to throw yourself away, too?
Leaving this house
after ten years would feel like letting them win–
my second husband, my son’s father. I love the sloped
A-line of the cottage front, the steep roof that sloughs
off the snow. I’ve filled out loan papers, looked at paint
colors—fun yellow, denim. Why does everything cost
so much money? Why do men always get to leave everything
behind and start over? Most days, I know that I’m wreckage,
debris. This is my summer of learning what it’s like to live
outside of survival mode. Still, there’s so much I don’t
arranging things, decorating. I feel like those Holocaust
who asked their children, Well, you aren’t a lampshade, are
whenever they would complain about something trivial. I’ve
never thought about cabinets and countertops. Only how not
to be beaten, how not to be killed. I used to think, Fuck you,
when my friends showed me paint swatches, their new bedding.
I didn’t even understand the point. Thinking about these things
still seems silly, but this is my house, and I want to fix it.
Besides, if I leave, how will my little birds find me?