Always it's Sunday, Mother offering herself
Outside, it's bric-a-brac houses on Knickknack Street.
I keep the score. Mother's nose, father's spine, aunt
Someone needs to hide the trash, tidy the bed,
what can enter? Why, just think what used to swing in our family tree!
in the back row, a missing frame in the reel-to-reel?
(True, model families are ever malleable.
Outside, we are little-black-dress, obligatory brown
traipsing into the cellar where the eggs lie
In the book of tomorrow's towns, these girls grin
in this house of continuous dismantling,
A plain girl is a secret. A very plain girl is Susan.
Sometimes we're three. Sometimes we're she-
And? And will we become?
of brown plush? A bowl of wax fruit?
We have apparatuses. We've limbs.
Goodbye, milktooth. Adios, grin.
On "The Living Room": In a Balthus painting by the same name [1941-1943], I was surprised to discover a third, shadowy girl seated on a piano bench, watching the two other girls. This third girl is almost completely erased from the painting except the palimpsest of her legs. Her absence troubled me, and I wished to write her back into the painting.
On "Inheritance": In a recent conversation an older, British colleague told me that during the second World War, his mother preserved her ration of raw eggs in a pail in the cellar, suspended in a substance called waterglass, a substance the color and consistency of white paint. That detail, combined with hosting my family in New Zealand for two weeks, put the poem into motion.