Eric Howard: “To the Terrace House”

It was good to see your guts knocked out
enough to fill six truck containers
and a new house rise from your frame
after selling your aluminum sided,
earthquake crooked fugliness.
I regret kicking everyone out of you—
the drunk punk and lame director,
the wannabe P.A. who slept in your shed,
Drummer Girl, a crackhead, a family,
and, finally, me. Your cracks in which
silverfish, ants, and roaches trafficked
are gone like the black widow that charged
out between my eyeballs as I wrenched your drain.
No more crawlies with countless knees
that waved like Misfit mohawks still live in you
to complicate the porn shoot, 500 bucks for your bills,
where I learned the proper rolling of extension cords.
Goodbye, shed that no band played in,
soundproofed too late to get Drummer Girl back.
I am grateful for your coffee pot
and happy pills, work by 8:30, boss says Saturday too,
three million words by Thanksgiving’s greasy duck
I cooked for her just once. I respect
your 70s shag carpet that my demented cat
used as a toilet. Thank you, overflowing toilets,
retaining walls that didn’t,
and water heater that puked to death
and curled the floor. Goodbye,
Surrealist bathroom and refrigerator,
and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz,
the hunchback iguana raised on burritos and Diet Sprite.
For your mortgage I taught
English 96 at the local CC, more
students than chairs the first night.
Bless my evaluator’s bourbon breath.
I bid goodbye to the neighbor’s spite fence.
Everyone who lived in you—teacher,
mother, faith healer, in-betweener—
picked from the fruit trees of your bolgia.
Goodbye, smoking air conditioner,
unplumb doors and untrue floors,
houseplants dying in galvanized buckets,
and 436 thousand escrow fuckits. I miss
Roger, Sticky Nickki, and Chuckles,
who came to collect from the psycho
Satanist Playboy model, Severina, who was already gone
after getting high in the bathtub. The bullet hole
in your kitchen wall is gone. I washed away
the red paint DIE! and dog-hair pentacle
from your broken gate. From the chair
on your porch I contemplated
the snow tire, on a wheel, that bounded
through the glass door and thumped twice,
its studs ripping carpet, before going
through a window and down the hill. A burglar
took a boombox through that window after it was fixed.
Goodbye, your bedroom that Drummer Girl
didn’t come back to till morning
when I left for work and she cranked “Hooker with a Penis.”
Ave atque vale, Halloween party I threw
to let her go with, waking up alone on the couch,
door open, various vomits. Goodbye, 300-yard
restraining order circling you and me both.
I’ll let go of the 100 drunk attempts to have
that sex again with someone else. Bless
the notches in the shotgun choke
I pressed above my Adam’s apple,
brain out of reasons. After a shiver, one—
I’d cause more pain. She said I loved you more than her.
She was love. You were duty. I failed both
and the picture of her in my sweatshirt,
drumming, in the album with mostly empty pages,
by setting it on fire and watching it turn black,
curl cancerous smoke below your grapefruit.
I’ll let fall those 50 50-pound bags of gravel
I shouldered down every step to the last level,
when the sun flexed like a drum, like a heart attack.

Eric Howard is a magazine editor who lives in Los Angeles. His poems have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Caveat Lector, Conduit, Gulf Stream Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, Old Red Kimono, Plainsong, and The Sun. In 2009 he attended the Squaw Valley Poets workshop and edited its anthology.

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