The House Is Always White

By Jana Russ

I still think of those houses, with their white
sideboards, thin wooden tables, the glass in the windows
beveled, reflecting clouds. But there was water

in the basement. It came up over wire shelves loaded
with canned goods, bottles of bleach, and discarded
board games of our childhood. We could no longer see

the workbench, only wrenches swaying like silver seaweed
on their pegboards, clinking underwater like the bells
of a drowned city. There were rows and rows

of hooks as well; but no matter where we hung keys,
they turned to rust. Even our carpets were
made of moss. Men came, took apart the stairs

and drained it all. When it was gone—we, too, moved.
The new house was also white: big rooms, more furniture,
quite luxurious, except for plates and cups that had

cracked, not much, a little chippage at the edges. I was
embarrassed and could not offer the salad around.
Never mind, the aunts said, while men carried in new lumber,

several yards of pipe: In case this one floods, too. No one
would stay. Some of the family had reserved hotels, though I
wouldn’t hear it. We have many beds, I told them.

And we did. Nice, if a bit worn. All with coverlets
of watered silk, sea green, storm cloud dark. Still,
even the children left without saying goodbye.

Jana Russ has an MFA from Northeast Ohio Universities, and teaches World Literatures and Chinese history at The University of Akron. Her poems have appeared in Riverwind, Penguin Review, Poetry Midwest, Juicebox, Full of Crow, Georgetown Review, and others; and in two recent anthologies: Women. Period (Spinsters Ink Press, 2008) and In the Hardship and the Hoping (J.B. Solomon Editions, 2008). She is the poetry editor of Pakistaniaat.

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