Cigarette butts and the ash of Salem Lights in never-emptied

glass ashtrays.  Crumpled take-out paper bags from Wendy’s piled

next to the couch.  Mold growing on the pink rubber mat

in the bathtub.  Cardigans, size M, in heather, taupe, and buttery yellow

with mother-of-pearl buttons heaped on the dresser.  A letter

dated 1967 from a newly married friend tucked away in a drawer.

 

Paper and plastic bags packed with unopened groceries

picked up just because they were on sale

down at the Stop n’ Shop:  crackers, grape juice,

garbage bags, detergent.  Childhood photographs fallen

from albums.  Recipe books splattered with pasta sauce

and bacon grease. A green Singer sewing machine bearing

a tangled spool of navy thread.  Rotting food

on dishes in the sink.  Cobwebs.

 

Still-soaked storage containers from the flood of last year’s

hurricane.  A Polaroid camera in its canvas case.  An engraving

machine with tiles reading “Shuneka Harrison,” my sister’s best

childhood friend, in the font tray.  Spiders’ egg sacs dangling

from ceiling corners.  Family videos on microfilm.  Receipts

for child support for a boy named Donnie we’ve never

heard of before.  The smell of cat urine.  Four eyebrow curlers.

 

Boxes of shoes that have never been worn.  Shoes that have the soles

worn through.  Ziplocked packages of meat long expired

in the basement freezer.  Every cancelled check ever written

for mortgage, taxes, cable T. V., and the lawnmower man.  A child’s

red plastic barrette.  One thousand nine Harlequin romance novels

in dusty paper shopping bags.  The skeleton

of a small animal.  A rusty projector.

 

Flies that avoid the sticky-tape traps that have been set

for them.  Rolled-up half-used tubes of Denture Grip.  Hundreds

of dollars in loose change.  A white leather jewelry box containing

the baby teeth we left for the Tooth Fairy in exchange

for a quarter.  Empty prescription pill bottles for high

blood pressure.  A tube of MAC coral lipstick.

 

A stray ketchup packet that has exploded onto the wall.  Piles

of department store clothes, most with tags.  The exoskeletons

of insects.  Mesh laundry bags filled with nude-colored

Maidenform bras.  A Newport High School yearbook stuffed

with autographed picture cards.  Bags of polyester shirts

that my father wore before he died.  Rusted curling irons

and a burnt-out blowdryer.

 

Sweaters that smell like Bath and Body Works’ vanilla-sugar

lotion.  Depends Undergarments.  Handwritten recipes in elegant

script. A manila envelope containing our elementary school

report cards.  A silver hoop earring without its mate.

 

When the dumpsters are full and the floors are bare,

it no longer feels like home.

 

by Christine Taylor

 

Christine Taylor resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey, and is an English teacher and part-time librarian at a local independent school and the mother of several poorly behaved cats (and a couple dogs). Her previously published work appears in PeaceCorpsWriters and Modern Haiku.

 

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