These poems by Lisa Andrews appear in her poetry collection, The Inside Room, from Indolent Books. More about the book below the poems. The four poems featured here are: At Night I Take Everything Off // The Anchoress // The Silence of Houses // Field Notes.
At Night I Take Everything Off
and everything comes to me.
Like a postcard from the dead
my father’s voice comes across —
a bough that bends
as it whispers, breaks,
Would you like an Eskimo pie?
I am a country that likes to be invaded.
Rivers rise; maps unfold; everything
breaks, rules, drives.
In dust and sleep I succumb,
I surrender. (This is my kind of sex.)
I am Egypt and this is the Nile.
There are gardens in the night
I alone can see. I roam
unlit corridors, encounter the dead.
My grandmother offers
an alligator pear, brushes her silver
hair, unclasps coral, unclips pearl.
Her hands turn to flowers, body to vine;
spider lilies cover her eyes.
I am summer and this is my fall.
I live through narrow escapes,
shipwrecks, train wrecks,
catastrophes that repeat.
Each time I sleep a sister dies.
She drowns; I wake, an only child.
I am past all wanting now. In this grave house
my body winters. Night after sleepless night,
the wait for the light sustains me.
Through a grate in the wall I discover
how long the sun takes: the interminable gray,
the insufferable white, the beloved and eventual blue.
Do you know what it is like to wait?
Remember when you were a child and spring came,
the ice melted and snow withdrew,
and all was mud, the not-yet-grass and the pink
worms, and your mother let you go outside without a hat,
and you realized what winter was for —
that all of winter had been just for this:
to walk out into spring, the early
warmth, the branches all bare expectancies
studded with green hints, all the traps sprung, and the earth —
I have seen this — how it wakes, rises like prayer.
The Silence of Houses
Everything died in that house: cats, dogs, plants.
Nothing grew. Underground, something
occasionally stirred. How else to explain
the basement floods. How lucky we were, each of us,
left alive. These days,
it isn’t hate, or love I feel, but something
almost like gratitude
for the difficult gray, almost
windowless house, its black curtains and yellow door, its walls
covered with books, their familiar, foreign words.
Nights my father and I would walk the dog
one last time around the block
before sleep, and my father
would suddenly stop, and Bill the dog
would patiently pause, then sit, while my father stared
into the houses of strangers. The two of them
bore witness and observed — the tinny music,
the mouths of the brightly dressed
host and guest, opening and closing,
on the other side of the plate glass. Draw your curtains,
I wanted to warn them, while my father
took note of the neighborhood’s
solitary readers, silent couples — and the distance
between them — countless families
sprawled on couches and chairs — the television’s blue-gray light
spreading in the flickering dark.
And when I finally said it,
said the word, Dad, giving it
I don’t know how many syllables, stretching out and back
in the embarrassed air, he turned and said,
How do you expect to learn anything,
if you never look? And I confess, that night I looked
from my bedroom window across the driveway
at the neighbors who lived behind us
without argument. I watched
their evening draw to a close:
the slow motion of Mrs. Powers’
bathrobe sleeves over the kitchen sink,
the end of a lit cigarette — Mr. Powers’
entrance, then exit — ice in his glass, the last light
switched off by the door.
Lisa Andrews’s forthcoming poetry collection, The Inside Room, from Indolent Books, is available for purchase from the publisher.
The poems appear with permission of Indolent Books. Copyright 2018 Lisa Andrews.
About the Author
Lisa Andrews is the author of The Inside Room (Indolent Books, 2018), and Dear Liz (Indolent Books, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Zone 3. Andrews holds a B.A. from Hunter College, and an M.A. in English literature and M.F.A. in creative writing (poetry) from New York University, where she taught in the Expository Writing Program, and worked with poetry students at Goldwater Hospital and Bayview Correctional Facility. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Tony Geiger.