“I am looking for the women of my house.”
Trying to find a woman can be trying.
The damned name change,
that name named “maiden,” lopped,
as never was a Manx tail.
Childbirth takes them too.
My great-grandmother died
in the moment of my great-uncle’s birth,
grandmother, age five, told nothing,
only recalling lullabies in Welsh.
And other early deaths:
my single sister diagnosed with lymphoma
when her sole daughter was three, an old story, that,
the mother who dies when the daughter is five.
See Felix Holt. See Bleak House. See
Dombey and Son. See daughter.
My dad developed his photos in a changing bag
on his army cot, got shots from his tail gunner window
in a B-17. And he took pictures of the bodies at Dachau,
hid them from us when we first found them and asked,
“Daddy, what are these black and white ones of piles of rags?”
He sold the battle scenes, bought land with the money,
built a house on it. I do not say, had a house built.
He hand-dug the basement, learned brickwork, installed
furnace and wiring, set in a secondhand mantle
on weekends and evenings after his day job welding.
“So much blood, sweat, and tears,” Mom sighed,
years later. “My blood and sweat and your tears,”
he laughed, which did define their division of labor.
Today, I hear a young writer say she never knew
other people’s houses were not designed
with a developing room. Different class,
different generation. Mine’s the one that knew,
my parents’— the one that made do.
Diane Kendig was born and raised in Canton, Ohio, left for 40 years, and returned recently to live in her childhood home, which her father built with his own hands when he returned from WWII. She has four collections of poetry, most recently Prison Terms (2018). Also she co-edited In the Company of Russell Atkins and translated Nicaraguan poetry for A Pencil to Write Your Name. She has published poetry and prose in many journals and anthologies such as Valparaiso Poetry Review and Under the Sun. A proponent of public workshops and local poets, Kendig conducts writing workshops in prison, schools, and community centers, and she curates the blog, “Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry,” with over 4,000 readers, for National Poetry Month. Find more at: dianekendig.com