Houses and Novel Writing

Anne Trubek, A Skeptic’s Guide to Writers’ Houses (2011) got me thinking about my house. I’ve written one novel (Boiled Peanuts) and, like the stink bugs that have Biblically plagued the house since last autumn, when one pops up you know more are nesting in the crevices eager to emerge. I really should invest in an oriental rug for the office (study), donate my old sci-fi novels to the public library and upgrade to some George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. Ultimately, literary tourists will want to see where I sat staring at my laptop with occasional flurries of finger movements, not this armchair, because the cats have shredded one corner, but a better one.

In a small way, I’m a house peeper (coincidentally the topic of Boiled Peanuts); I was thrilled to see the Dickens house, hoping some essence from the great old man (he’d be 200 next February, had he lived) would invade me from the ether. I’ve added Shakespeare, Longfellow and Hemingway to my limited catalog, and, I think, Poe. I remember his grave but I’m a blank on the house. Conveniently, there’s a cemetery across the street from my house, it’s an African-American cemetery, but I presume my etiolated (sun denied) writer’s skin will not debar me, and those pilgrims who pay $20 to peek around the house can freely traipse across the road to kiss my tombstone. First, I have to die, but before that I have to find some readers and, darn it, I’ve got to write the books.

Defect of the Heart

The wild phlox grows a goodly height
As tall as ever it can tower
Amid the high grass splurging light
A simple graceful forest flower
Propelled to grow as any child
By forces kind indifferent and wild
That flourish only as they please
Forsaking with unfavored ease.

Night Frost

Night frost creeps on thicket mist
And crystalline the brambles bind
Now hard and stickled casuist
Discomfit by thy sullen tines
But tell me not your heart is mine
That breaks upon a brittle line
For warmth I hold so bitterly
Cold red bird in the cup of me.

A Folksy Poem

How can she be sleeping
All through the bright day
With woodpecker rapping
A-rapping away?

I've got my one suit on
And come far to court
The girl of my dreaming
And every dear thought.

How can she be sleeping
When sounds at the door
My heart-beats so loudly
So loud an uproar?

I fear she'll not hear me
Not hear me this day
But while she keeps sleeping
I'll by her door stay.