Jennifer Compton

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

I live here too

Borrowed Landscape

Paddy Maguire’s Pub, near Chinatown, Sydney

The trees, that do not belong to me, on the hill,
that does not belong to me. This is my premise.

The people in a house that grew like a mushroom.
But with shattering noise! Oh yes! Look across

at us as if we have always existed – just like this.
But indeed we have not. And will not. No.

When I call on my airy familiars, they come to me, more
insubstantial than they used to be, but still. They come.

With – lightsome tread. Through landscape. Sometimes
in the guise of an animal or bird. Sometimes … sometimes …

… exactly what is about this city that I cannot
quite – quite – quite – dislike?

They are looking at me! The people! As they pass!
I can’t grasp, even with exhaustive intuition, Asian

postures, ways of being. I can read the Australians,
some with an Asian cast of feature. Some not.

A grandmother – I can tell that much – a grandmother
trots past flat-footed, the baby jogging on her back

stealing the look of me. All saved to file, on her hard drive.
The woman in the beer garden in the black hat … scribbling …

… scribbling. As she steals me, so I steal her.
The man (with his bitter mouth) has gone. Up!

And left! Taken his chance, picked his time.
So I would not notice him going. Although

I notice him gone. He is gone out as far as I
can imagine to the place where he lives his life.

The place that intersects with this. I am bold today.
I am imagining lives. Lives! Three whiskeys down!

Writing a poem – as if it is allowed! – thrumming with
the courage to impose – and claim – what is always mine!


O forgive me but I forget my name.
It was a long time ago when the men
came on horseback with their swords drawn.

I was a boy. Not a man.
There were plenty like me.
We did what we were told to do.

It might be to carry a plate of food
up into the light of the hall
where the people were.

And then, that day – I was underground –
I heard the noise and went upstairs
to see all the people killed.

The men – on horses – O
white and black and bay – drinking blood.
Nothing to do with me.

I sat all night on the bottom stair. I was cold.
And nothing stirred. Everybody dead.
At dawn I understood that they had killed me.

I got to my feet and walked away from the castle.
As I walked across the meadow towards you
the ones like me were waking from their sleep.

This is the house I find myself in

These apartments are all beautifully maintained.
One of them is in my husband’s name.
I saunter away along the top floor & see the old woman
with grease baked onto her gas cooker.
I did know other people would be living here:
it stands to reason. She does have a window &
she gazes out at the brick wall, stubbornly.
There is a much better view from the other side
of the building.
I don’t remember these stairs. Pitched steeply,
winding back on themselves, leading nowhere
purposefully. Likely back stairs for servants
But there are no servants. Any more. The old man
takes a shower in his jerry-built bathroom.
His haunches twitch. He soaps between his legs. Why does everyone
leave their door open? I don’t want to have to see into their rooms.
At last! The main staircase with that insolent, laconic curve.
& this friend of a friend
strides past me, three treads at a time – before I can find
breath to speak. Or lift a hand. He has come to live here:
found this house. He doesn’t seem to know I live here too.
We all live here. Well well. We’ll meet in the rose garden
adjacent to the fountain. Or he will reach for the knocker
to let it fall & boom inside the entrance hall as I approach
the porte-cochère.
He’ll turn and say – It’s you!
This is the staircase I have been looking for.
A cunning flight of stairs behind a secret door.
& here is my room after all. Four walls. But –
When I wake up I still believe in this house
my room: I plan to furnish it. & what to write.

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