I was asked to house-sit but when I arrived
the house had burned down, leaving ashes
and only the ghosts of the plants and cats
I was to look after. Still, I took my duties
seriously and moved through the detritus
carefully, polishing furniture, tidying up.
Where the south window had been I opened
the curtains and let in the sun, admired
the bric-a-brac I imagined had lined
the sill: glass elephants and a hula girl made
of toothpicks, her eyes bright as embers, a shell
from the Sargasso Sea. I held it to my ear
but all I heard was the raging of flame. I lived
this way for weeks, waiting for the letter,
the phone call. When winter came I had no choice
but to move on. I locked the door, swept
the stoop, left my forwarding address.
Questions and Answers
What inspired this poem?
This was one of over 30 poems I wrote during a month I was in residence at the Gibraltrar Point arts centre on Toronto Island in the summer of 2005. I was writing one a day, in addition to working on a novel, just firing the poems off. Not all were keepers, of course.
What poetic techniques did you try to use?
Like some of my other poems on this site (“Satisfaction of knowing,” “Arguing with science,” and others), this poem is essentially a short story. The incident the poem depicts in fictional, the style narrative. I write many “fictional” poems like this. Of course, they’re not really short stories – they’re poems disguised as stories.