We have a framed, signed print of Jane Cooper’s “Rent” in our hallway. It suits us, and our home:
If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let’s have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.
If the rocking chair’s arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.
I don’t want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle’s flame when we eat,
I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us—
Not a roof but a field of stars.
In the past week or so, we’ve pulled over three hundred books off our (still miraculously full!) bookshelves. We’ll be giving them away. This is in preparation for putting most of the others in storage, a step in getting our place ready to show. That’s right: we are going to sell.
We’ve lived here eleven years now. I still love it — I love our deck, I love the light, the city view — but my knees don’t love the climb up to and down from the fourth floor. (Especially the one operated on this past summer.) While the cane I’m still using to get around may be temporary, the fifty stairs represent a permanent problem, so it is time to say goodbye to this place.
It has probably always been true that there are poems for every occasion; I just don’t know them. So I’m grateful when folks like Carpentrix, who has been saying goodbye to an old and much-loved family home, share what they know. This is from Mary Oliver’s “On Losing a House”:
The bumble bees
know where their home is.
They have memorized
every stalk and leaf
of the field.
They fall from the air at
the right place,
under the soft grasses,
Where will we go
with our table and chairs,
our nine thousand books,
our TV, PC, VCR,
who is sixteen years old?
Where will we put down
our dishes and our blue carpets,
where will we put up
We’ll go somewhere, not far — not past the limits of the subway system, at any rate — but it will take awhile to get used to the idea of here not continuing to be home.