A house is a palimpsest
A familiar retelling of stories,
Of paint samples and plaster,
Renovation and rebirth.
You may cleanse insistently
The traces of lives before you, but
They will continue to speak, to breathe
Within the ancient hardwood framing,
The modern metal joist hangers, the
Copper water lines, and the thick black
Wires hiding and seeking, taking refuge in
Green-grey junction boxes covered with
Rust and damp and dryer lint, and coursing in
Ungrounded current, threatening to flame,
To spark the destruction of these pages.
When Daniel pulled the ceiling panel
To access the upstairs plumbing,
A frenzy of rat droppings washed over him
And he jumped off the ladder, alarmed
By his mind's interpretations of what next
Might fall from this long-neglected sky.
Outside to brush off his clothes, face,
To catch fresh breaths, he shakes off the past
Before returning to his work replacing
Cast-iron (when you cut it, the taste stays
in your mouth for days) with PVC fittings,
The sort the kids and I later tossed
By the dozens back in a bin on the driveway.
I wasn't there the day a different crew
Prepared that ceiling for drywall.
When I returned, it had been covered over,
Sheathed in self-righteousness and new, and
I was left wondering about the nest:
Had its inhabitants long ago abandoned it,
Or would they remain our neighbors,
Decorating their new space alongside ours?
Would I, years later, hear their children,
The certain scritch of their claws, and
Dream of their life within my life,
Their story between my stories?