Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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Poems by Wendy Priesnitz: The House Where I Grew Up

These poems were published in 1999 in a book entitled The House Where I Grew Up, which is currently out of print.


The House Where I Grew Up

The house where I grew up has changed
It’s smaller
The rough stucco covered by smooth metal boards
My friend’s yard is smaller too
the house next door neater
and the elm tree gone

It’s now the kind of street where
when you park there
they look out between lace curtains
wondering if they should call the police
about the car idling in front of their house.

I’m a stranger on the street
where a pig-tailed five-year-old walked to school
with a handkerchief pinned to her red sweater
where a 16-year-old boyfriend arrived embarrassingly on his bicycle
where lace and perfume hid the sticky evidence of love

I want to call to the faces behind the curtains
that I belong here,
wasn’t trespassing as I walked
in their overgrown alley,
poked through the wood fence boards
looking for my mother’s sweet peas.

The gypsy woman’s house on the corner
looks harmless now
but I can taste the fear
that still makes me speed my pace as I walk by
past the house where the girl lived who we shunned
after her red-spotted dress betrayed our womanhood

A frantic dream,
a comic book
where I didn’t belong,
couldn’t stay long,
as my walk
turned into a run
my memory on fire
for the last block
I haven’t gone anywhere.


The Mother Web

Playing Solitaire
on a dusty morning in Romania,
winning because I played it so much
as an only child,
the silence echoing me
sounding like my mother.
Even here, I must fight off
the grasping fingers of heredity,
the legacy of trivialities
as dusty as the jars
of grayish green peas
in the Cernavoda shops.
It’s easier here to reject
her need for a good daughter
as if it were a job description
that came with being born…
easier to learn from your gift
of seeing over the rooftops.


A Little Poem For Heidi

It’s comforting to know
that half way across the world
your teakettle energy
still boils over like a pot that’s too full,
that you’re still laughing
with the desperate glee
of a gardener with too many zucchini.


The Color of Nourishment

I’ve set out
a bunch of dried hot peppers
and a bowl of apples
hoping the color of nourishment
will heal the emptiness I feel
in this foreign kitchen.
Mugs of tea to keep warm
and to help me remember
who I am and why I’ve come
so far away from home.
Sewing a shirt I don’t really need
and writing letters to my daughters
knowing they’ll be too busy to read them.
Knitting the days together
so they move along faster
towards Spring.


Rude Awakening

phone rang
snow stopped
so have the words
fantasy over
business calls
people re-appear
the world awakens at noon

you’ll stay buried under
the snowy sheets of my imagination
a memory too shy to appear.


No Time

I’m trying to crowd
as much as possible
Into the second half of my life.
Piling up sweet sounds,
strong words,
pungent smells,
layer upon layer of sensation.

I have no time.

You tell me there’s all the time
in the universe…
millennium left after I die

But I need to write
one last poem
to describe the short yellow hairs
on your belly
and the damp red leaves
that cover the dying vines
in my back garden.

poems copyright © Wendy Priesnitz 2015