“Settling” by Paula Sergi

Paula Sergi


I want to wake in a place old
enough to know crumble, a house
built with lath and mortar,

that sloppy concoction of sandy
glue oozing between little strips
of thin wood. In any corner

you’ll find walls defying “plumb,”
honoring gravity, some cracks
creating the face of a woman in repose,

the shape of a moose, his hairy neck
crooked as a boxer’s nose.
Maybe an old dog left chemical

traces of his wag, elemental evidence
of loyalty embedded in the oak’s grain,
his claws’ happy scramble etched

where the varnish has faded.
Those planks, weighted with work
boots and real leather heels will tilt

off center, the way a gaze through
window panes made before glass
was perfected will distort the view

so any gaze is like peering
through soap bubbles. Too much
is made of the sleek caress of new

drawers that open on cue. How else
to locate fortitude but through
the nagging knot of failure at the fourth

or fourteenth try? Give me a path
of settling flagstone, something
to stub my toe against, to learn

negotiation, the patient splinter
saving itself for my foot, ignoring
the fleshy heels of all who passed before.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001
Tribute to Boomer Girls


Paula Sergi: “Lately I’ve been enjoying the interaction between sound and meaning, the dance between these two elements of language. I’m usually surprised when I find that I might have something going, that there might be a tune or a pattern. The challenge is to recognize when the dance is over—or that there’s really no music playing at all.”

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