Dear Lily June,
Some people see poems as extraordinarily complex little puzzles.
Like they were Rubik’s cubes you set to spinning and spinning until the rainbow within them clicks into submission, poems, some people think, are to be organized into their parts, lined up nice and neat until each of their words of each of their lines sings one song of meaning in unison: here a line of red squares, there a line of green.
Your dad and I have never been these people.
For us, the joy in the poem is in wandering into it like it were a labyrinth, only instead of trying to solve it by making our way to some core center, we move right in amidst the brambles and the thorns, making the unruly hedges our walls and whatever was visible of the sky above our ceiling.
I think I mean to say that it’s been a bit of high-water hell house-hunting.
I think I mean to say your parents have had to learn about things recently for which our training as poets did not prepare us: the way language like “liquidated damages” doesn’t refer to the way you, our darling daughter, make waves over the heads of your duckies in our apartment tub, splashing the floor tiles soaked but also drenching the air in laughter.
We’ve had to learn the slight way “inspection” and “appraisal” catch the light differently, though each time that light is glinting off of the nickels your parents have barely been able to scrape together in the first place to give you your first place.
We know what it means now when a seller doesn’t want “possession” to be “date of closing,” and it’s a bit like being possessed by a demon who keeps closing the door to an internal bank vault we can smell the crisp whiff of money from, only to be handed a bouquet of contracts that keep wilting.
In other words, Lily June, the way contracts use language is a mathematical logic entirely, and it feels a bit like the real estate agent and the lender are a two-headed Minotaur waiting at the center of the maze, solving the Rubik’s cube with their horns and hooves faster than you could even toss one up and catch it again in your palms.
In other words, there’s a lot your dad and I aren’t catching.
We’re trying, today, to put in an offer again after we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s last week all wrong. This is what it is to buy a house in poverty. Suffice it to say, we wanted for you limitless windows and instead, we’ve met with a number of walls.
I hate that it’s been this long since I’ve written to you or to anyone: There is much to say about words as simple as pie and as complicated as lymphadenopathy.
But instead, I have only an offering for you as basic as an American haiku. The rules are taught to most grade schoolers: To write a haiku, you just need three lines counted by the syllables five-seven-five. (Nevermind that the Japanese language, from which the form comes, doesn’t have this concept of syllabics. Americans, more than any other, covet the word “ownership.”)
If I sound bitter about the small poem, I don’t mean to be: One culture’s somber reflection on the changing nature of nature is another’s reflection on the changing nature of change. So be it.
For what it’s worth, Kat of like mercury colliding… writes awesome Word of the Day Haiku, so credit where credit’s due: this is an homage to her incredible idea. In fact, it’s because of her that I subscribed to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, though I have no one but my own crazy brain to blame each time I read those words as a portent for our house-hunt.
(I’ll admit that when “ramshackle” came up the same day we were going to make an offer on a different home, I was more than a little shaken.)
This little high-coo, Lily, is how house-hunting makes your mother’s head hurt, brought to you by the word…
How “pull to pieces”
now means “rumple” my grays plucked
from “disheveled” sheets
And because one offering to the Gods of Wet Chicken Panic is never enough while your mother awaits her agent sending your dad and I a response to the second home offer we’ll make, here, too, is the song of the blues we’ve been singing since February, whenever we’ve set foot into a strangers’ home and tried to envision it as our own.
Lily, I will return to more words to you when the home in my mind, like the homespun house from Kansas dropped down into Oz, quits rotating like a wood-siding dream caught in a storm-glass blender.
Until then, here it is again, for good measure:
- By Fæ, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15369772