Bildungsroman

by Peter Streckfus | June 22, 2012

Where am I.

A window, blinds half opened, the maple and beautybush and smilax catching
the lamplight, nodding as if a silent chorus. Beyond, the flood of the nothing
audience.

How much easier it is to address you when I cannot see you, turned dark, in
the blackness of the sure mistake.


In the dreams, disorder in a house is marked by water.

At the end of a hose, a meter—a white plastic waterwheel—is broken.
Pipes leak above a basement swimming pool.
Cracked and empty, a sheet metal tank, caked with lime.

Who could we be to you, we who you never knew, your siblings—we who
could not swim until adulthood.


At three- and five-years old, before I was born, my two older sisters were lost
in the canal adjacent to the children’s park, having found a way to open the
back gate, and closing it.

We spoke to you, my siblings and I. We pretended.

Older than us, you told us how to behave among children at school, how to
find friends, if only we could hear you.

 
How does one return to a story like yours without trying to stop it in the mind.

Its bricks and pillars.

The dream-spur on the heel of the dog that bit me, that turned its eye from the
subject as if it were not the subject.

 
We were each a child among children, my siblings and I. They followed me,
as I was the oldest.

Our father watched from the front porch in his lawn chair. My twelfth
summer, he allowed us to ride bikes out of his sight.

Paths through fields. On the banks of a ditch, a shady clearing formed by
trees, and in one, an abandoned tree house. Each day after riding the dusty
trails on our street bikes, we rested there.


What did we do, brothers, sitting on the platforms joined by rickety plank
bridges and ladders. Did we tell stories together. Strive, contend, and vote.
Were we of one mind, pretending.

Who made the tree house and the trails we rode.

Other children who we never saw, we guessed. Children from the past. We
thought about them as we rode and rested on their platforms, sharing a single
soda between ourselves.

This poem appeared in the July 12, 2012 issue of the magazine.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//article/poetry/magazine/104196/bildungsroman-peter-streckfus