“How Much Does Your House Weigh” by Richard Cole

Richard Cole


Somewhere in the middle of marriage,
we did the math. Two hundred pounds
per square foot times twenty nine hundred
square feet. That’s five hundred eighty 
thousand pounds, three hundred tons almost
we carried on wings. For twenty years 
the rooms were filled with children, noisy, unmindful
about the future, as was their right. We gave them
memories, and you filled the backyard with roses, 
antiques from abandoned cemeteries, bred
to survive alone, Heaven on Earth, Rêve d’Or, 
Belinda’s Dream, and a marriage bed
of icebergs, burgundy and white.
We raised the boys in the middle
class of expectations. I taught them to fly,
wobbly on their bicycles, how to drive, how to leave
home someday while you would show them 
how to stay in love. This was our calling, 
the art of effacement except for the home
you made and the house I strained to support, 
and under it all a thin insinuation of debt 
corrupting our slab foundation. 
“This debt is a cancer,” you said, 
and you were right. I made a mistake 
when I married you, and your mistake 
was to marry me. We did the math, 
and we’re both bad at numbers. 
But what counts more—planting a tree
or writing a poem? Writing a book
or raising a child? Somehow the boys grew up
and away, now fine young men, and now we carry
half the weight with a smaller house, though
even that might be too much. Tonight, 
I see us in a Liberty Belle, a bomber 
from World War II, coming back from a night raid. 
I’m not a pilot but I’m flying this thing, 
your hand on mine as my hand rests on the throttle. 
We’ve taken hits, the plane bucks and shivers,
air whistling through the cabin, smoke
trailing from one of the engines, 
almost out of fuel, on a glide path
downward across the divided Channel, 
your hand on mine, the both of us still working,
pressing to reach some green, 
imaginary and ultimate England.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020


Richard Cole: “I was born in Krum, Texas. I run a small but stubborn business writing agency in Austin, Texas, where I live with my wife, who works as a psychic consultant. I’ve never taken a writing workshop, though I’ve taught a few. For me, poetry is a form of oxygen.” (web)

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