An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Rent

    There were five houses over twenty years.
    We lived almost a decade in one,
    a mild, shallow winter in another.

    We bartered work for rent in the last, the one
    that had already been let go. Privet crowded
    the porch, and a wall bowed into the parlor—abandoned

    honey swollen inside it, the plaster crazed.
    We would share that house with swallows
    in the chimney, with the black rat snake

    I'd find coiled in a basket of clothes,
    or stretched out on the bed. Bumblebees
    purred as though with content/ment under us

    and spiders—seasonless—survived the broom
    to live in every corner, their egg sacs hung
    like soft, spun pearls. Every spring, the bedroom

    filled with termites flying, having come up
    from beneath the floor to mate and shed the brief
    wings I swept up like confetti; committed,

    they returned to a narrowing crawlspace
    to feed their queen. I imagined her pale and thick
    as my thumb, invalid, being fed the house,

    birthing more of what would keep her fed.
    When I worried the place would fall, you laughed
    not in our lifetime. That was true. It stood

    those years where it yet stands, where you remained
    without me, living, you would claim,
    another, finer life, nothing the same.

    But I imagine the walls still disappear inside
    themselves, vacant forms, and the house grows
    lighter, a deceitful ruin that lingers, rising

    longer than it should above you and the fertile
    hunger that will, with enough time, consume it—
    before going on to another survival.


    Published in Late Wife (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005).

    Published: 26 October 2009
    © 2009 Claudia Emerson and Southern Spaces