Joyce, my stepmother, lives in a dilapidated dollhouse;
sleeps in a king bed that holds the imprint of my deceased father;
and, on her outgoing answering machine message, claims that
“we” can’t pick up your call.
Joyce can’t afford to fix the floor of her dollhouse.
Termites feast by her feet;
carve holes under cracked linoleum;
and fracture the foundation
of the home she inherited.
Algae floats in the pool
in which my father took midnight dips.
Snakes slither from bayou to Joyce’s backyard;
they lay eggs in her pool-turned-pond
and poison water that runs six feet deeper than Dad’s planted.
Joyce’s dollhouse is the box magicians use to make cherished items disappear:
first, stepson; then, dad;
piece-by-piece, furniture vanishes.
“And for your next trick, bring them back,” she cries in her sleep—
next to the crater in her bed, an imprint,
or fingerprint, a sign of what was once dear
During hurricanes, Joyce hides in her dollhouse closet and
glides her once-manicured fingernails over moth-eaten fabrics—
PAST the beige dress worn at her wedding,
PAST perforated skirt suits,
PAST khaki slacks and shiny black sling backs.
“What beautiful damage,” she whispers.
Joyce intended to sell her toy home,
soon after Dad died.
When she found out he hadn’t left a will,
she willed us away and sold what she could,
in a game of death’s payday.
The day of his funeral, we were each given trash bags
and told to ransack his closet for old ties, night shirts, and boxer shorts.
When asked about the diamond watches he wore on each wrist,
she flatly stated “Ebay” and then sent us on our way.
Now, in the darkest financial days since the Great Depression,
she cannot sell her Grey Gardens.
And each year, wood beams that hold up the vaulted ceiling bow a bit more.
Her house of cards is now stacked on fractured ground.
When she asks me to come visit her for Christmas,
I can’t bring myself to be her Little...