13 Ways of Places by Scott Owens

1
The first place I remember —
a wide chair, 2 babies
in the seat, my brother and I
astride each arm.

2
A place we came back to
year after year, every time
a man left or hit us,
7-acre farm full of chickens,
corn, cows, tomatoes,
2 boys in 2 single beds.

3
On Phoenix Street, behind the KFC,
I learned to ride a bike,
and when the trash can
caught on fire,
I was beaten for lying
until it blew up.

4
My mother’s nose is bloodied,
my brother saved by not
being able to reach the gun,
every night punctuated by trains
going anywhere but here.

5
What could be better
than a bedroom of my own,
window onto a wide front porch,
until a lovesick neighbor
knocked on the door at night,
pulled a gun
and emptied his stomach before me.

6
No doubt the worst place
we ever lived,
downhill from everywhere,
a place for runoff to collect.

7
The streets here breathe
with overarching steam.
Night and day
the rumbling of machinery
causes voices to rise.

8
This close to history, to other,
I had to teach myself the language,
find ways to venture down the Rhine,
south to mountains
without my family’s help.

9
Little wonder I got out early.
What does it say of a marriage
to remember nothing that matters
of the places it lived?

10
Who could use a house
with 7 bedrooms, 5 baths?
Who could keep it clean,
living on campus
in the Headmaster’s house,
myself master of nothing.

11
I always wanted to write
poems of place,
but having lived
in 14 cities, 34 houses,
I never knew
which place to write about.

12
Nearing 48,
the seventh year in this house,
the longest I’ve ever lived
in one place, I undertake
the permanence of a treehouse,
the only structure I’ve ever made.

13
Even as a child I knew,
left alone, I would walk out
in Cade’s Cove and lie down
and wait for deer to consume
my body turned to grass.

4 Responses to “13 Ways of Places by Scott Owens”

  1. This has motion even though each stanza is a “place.” But it grows more poignant during the journey from 1 to 13.

  2. Glenda Beall Says:

    Makes me sad for a little boy, but happy he grew up to be a poet.
    While some of us complain about living in the same place all our lives, others find too many places are overwhelming.

  3. I always am glad to see more work by Scott Owens. This sings.

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