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Luisa Di Pietro and Lin Jorgensen

Di Pietro_RE

© Luisa Di Pietro
Created using Lin Jorgenson’s poem (below) as inspiration

Lullabies for a Rainy House
© By Lin Jorgensen

I wouldn’t leave my house
Though the roof, unmended
For decades, sent rain seeping
Down through the walls
To meet water seeping
Up through broken pipes.

I stayed when the walls lifted
Away from floorboards
That sank, gaping.
With hell close underfoot
I stumbled tilting from
Room to room, amazed by
This decaying ark
Covered by a tattered tarp
Always damp and mostly dark
That I called home

Until, fifty years standing,
Thirty of them mine
Through ice and rainstorm
The elm tree let go

A quarter-ton bouquet
A rude awakening
A roaring boom across
The bow of the roof
Twelve feet from my bed
Shook the house
And ran my ark aground.
I knew it was bad before
I saw it: We’re sunk
I whispered to the cats.
It’ll never stop raining now.

The dog and I blinked
Through 3 a.m. murk
At a huge limb leaning
The length of the roof
Balanced on a single eave,
The crushing weight scarcely
Piercing a little room
I thought might be spared.
But already rain swept in. Soon
Every surface would I knew
Brimming, buckling, fall asunder

No more praying the elm
Tossing above in ice or rain
Stands fast until the morning.
Free from all hope, but things
Could always be worse!
That’s what we always said.
That’s boats for you. That’s
Staying afloat. That’s being
An elm tree, that’s living
Under one!  The dog and I
Crept back inside, weary from
Staring at the damage.

The worst had come and
It staggered, it beggared, it
Knocked all the wind out
And made me long for shelter

So I took what I could of the garden
And a slice of the elm and moved house.
New people bought my ark, razed it.
Built clean over my streaming sadness.
Cut down the elm.  I could never go back.
It’s safe here. The worst is over.
But comes a strong rain, I swear
A blue tarp frays and flaps like sails
I hear the steady hiss of hidden water
Leaking soaking sinking and
The elm tosses fifty feet above
Us, quaking, praying for morning.

Our old lullabies wake us:
The little cats keep close, the dog eyes
My face, then the window, and sighs.
We grow still, comforted, waiting for
The crack of doom together. Trusting
The ark of sleep to carry us home

——————————————————-

Di Pietro_INSP

© Luisa Di Pietro
Inspiration piece provided to Lin Jorgenson

Something in the Woods
© By Lin Jorgensen

“Why are you sitting directly in my line of vision?”

She looked up quickly from the flimsy discount-store curtains she was hemming, surprised.

“What do you mean? I’m sitting in the doorway because that’s where the curtain is.”

“You know what you’re doing. You’re sitting in my line of vision, where you know I have to see you. You’re trying to distract me.”

Light glinted off his glasses, so she couldn’t see his eyes, but his mouth was tight, his voice harsh. Uh, oh.

The pot was making him paranoid again; that’s how he got lately. Before, it made him teary and sentimental. Usually about some memory of his cruel father and fragile mother. Or his time in Vietnam as a refugee advisor and roué. Or the ghost in the machine, or some other philosophical crap.

He could talk for hours, his face lifted, smiling sweetly through a cloud of smoke, oblivious to anything but his thoughts.

Not now. He was aware of her, and he wanted her not to be there.

They were graduate students, just married. They lived in an old farmhouse on his father’s Christmas tree farm, on the edge of a Wisconsin community so small they had to drive to the next town to buy a pair of yellow-and-white striped sheer curtains. The idea was to keep the bedroom, right off the living room, screened off from the heat till bedtime. His father constantly carped about the fuel-oil bill.

Spun from some slippery synthetic fabric, the panels itched her skin as she handled them.  The sewing would be easier to do with them hanging, she thought. So she put them on a tension rod, put the rod in the doorway, pinned up the hems, and sat down to slipstitch them to the right length.  It was soothing work, a welcome break from reading Melville.

He sat in an overstuffed armchair making notes for his dissertation; she worked quietly. But not for long. As soon as he accused her of sabotaging his concentration, she realized that he must have been watching her, getting angrier by the moment, as she was settling into her sewing.

Wisconsin winters are staggeringly cold. She picked these curtains because light could pass back and forth between the rooms while heat stayed where it was needed.  In theory, a little bit of warmth could leak through so the sheets wouldn’t be freezing, but they always were anyway.  Some nights she wondered why the bedroom windows didn’t shatter.  High sound could do that to glass, but not deep cold. That seemed wrong. But it didn’t have anything to do with what seemed right: Chemistry determined what exploded, or imploded, or frosted over without complaint.

“I’m not trying to distract you! You know what I’m doing. This is why we got the curtains!  I’m fixing them. What are you getting upset for?”

She was upset herself now. This marriage was only a month old, but they’d been together for a year. She felt tired to her bones from placating him. It was like living with her mother again: At any moment, the gloves could come off and a verbal fistfight would rain blows, which never quite healed before the next time.  The words between them kept getting worse. Worse even than the silences.

She’d moved here with him for grad school from the southern university town where they’d met.  Soon after, she wasn’t sure exactly when, she noticed he was acting different. Or had he always been like this, and only in the quiet of the farm was she now noticing?

His father had ridiculed him as a child for being “sensitive like your mother.” A farmer’s kid was expected to chew through chores like a beast. Like a machine. Without complaint. He detested his father.

“You’re becoming more like your father every day.”

She couldn’t help it; the bitter words slipped out of her mouth like an old lady down icy steps.  The second she said them, she became afraid. If she was right, that made her his mother.

He fixed her with his glinting round spectacles. She stared back, sitting with a lapful of curtain, needle stilled in mid-stitch.  Another one of their wordless face-offs.

Still looking at her impassively, he reached down toward the stack of books on the floor by his chair. He was turning back to work.

No he wasn’t. With one big farmer’s hand, he lifted an unabridged collegiate dictionary and hurled it across the room at her.

It missed her, landing at her feet, but she leaped up instinctively.  She rushed past him, screaming You’re crazy, this is crazy, you’re driving me crazy—and more things, she wasn’t even sure what she was saying, or if she was even saying them out loud.

The bedroom opened into the living room, which opened into the kitchen, which opened to the front porch. She grabbed her coat and rushed through three doors and out into the back yard.  She ran past the barn, the burn barrel, the small flower plot where next summer she would grow cosmos and zinnias that her father-in-law would say were a waste of good land.

She ran past the fields where they would grow a truck garden; next summer and fall, they would sell corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and melons at a roadside stand. Next fall, sipping gin from a bottle in a brown paper bag on the last evening of the season at the  stand, they would feel friendly again. Accidentally conceiving a son.

But now the ground crunched underfoot; she slipped and almost fell a couple of times. It wasn’t snowing. Just bitter cold.

She passed what next summer would be the squash fields.  There is nothing more beautiful than a field of flowering squash. But on this late blue winter afternoon it was gray and dead-looking. This landscape echoed with her despair.

All she could think to do in her panic was run toward the windbreaks.   Massive white pines, full of the cold wind they were there to catch, rocked in long rows, gridding out fallow fields and acre on acre of Christmas trees.  It was so quiet there. So still. Not peaceful. Just pure nothing. She stood there with her arms around herself and listened to pure nothing. It sounded so good.  She wanted to lie down under the white pines and never speak again. Never listen to anything but these trees bristling with cold wind ever again. Protected by them like a fallow field.

When it got darker, though, she became afraid and started walking slowly back. The windbreaks seemed menacing. Who knew what dangers lay in the shadowy beds of needles beneath them?  Two retarded fellows lived in a shack at the edge of the farm, and they could pop up anytime, shuffling and grinning, hoping for a food handout. Harmless? Probably.

Under the dark-blue night sky, her heart and her hands and her feet were numb. She trudged back to the stony-faced scholar in the farmhouse.  Waited till he drove off to find a bar for a case of cheap beer. And finished hemming the godforsaken curtains. She liked to finish what she started.

She still dreams of the barn, the fields, the windbreaks, the blue winter nights, the cold house. Those curtains lasted longer than she did, though she lasted longer than she should have.

——————————————————-

Note: All of the art and writing on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

2 comments

  1. Brilliant, an oustanding union of word and image. Ms. DiPietro’s work always amazes!


  2. Love everything, especially the dog!! Love to you Luisa.



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