Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Childhood" by Maura Stanton

I used to lie on my back, imagining
A reverse house on the ceiling of my house
Where I could walk around in empty rooms
all by myself. There was no furniture
Up there, only a glass globe in the floor,
And knee-high barriers at every door.
The low silled windows opened on blue air.
Nothing hung in the closet; even the kitchen
Seemed immaculate, a place for thought.
I like to walk across the swirling plaster
Into the parts of the house I couldn't see.
The hum from the other house, now my ceiling,
Reached me only faintly. I'd look up
to find my brothers watching old cartoons,
Or my mother vacuuming the ugly carpet.
I'd stare amazed at unmade beds, the clutter,
Shoes, half-dressed dolls, the telephone,
Then return dizzily to my perfect floorplan
Where I never spoke or listened to anyone.

I must have turned down the wrong hall,
Or opened a door that locked shut behind me,
for I live on the ceiling now, not the floor.
This is my house, room after empty room.
How do I ever get back to the real house
Where my sisters spill milk, my father calls,
And I am at the table, eating cereal?
I fill my white rooms with furniture,
Hang curtains over the piercing blue outside.
I lie on my back. I strive to look down.
This ceiling is higher than it used to be,
The floor so far away I can't determine
Which room I'm in, which year, which life.

Here's a poem I first came upon in college. The remembered image of the celing was so exactly what I remembered from my childhood, and the emotional significance of that spare ceiling world also rang true. Of course, I've found my way back down to the floor now. Now when I read this poem I remember the ache I felt, when alone ,for the messiness of living in a family again - and I yearn now again for some of the spareness and clarity of that ceiling life.
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