about the old neighbor who lives alone, the woman
no one has seen in years, if at all. Say she cracked
her yellowed shade and spoke to you, soon after
you moved in, mid-winter. Change the locks,
she said. A gray fox lived
in our city neighborhood. Say foxes, say
this one slinked over her fence at night, leaving
a trail of prints in the snow. Say The woman
set out a bowl of milk, say she shooed you away
when you tried to shovel snow from her walk,
fetch her a sack of lightbulbs and eggs. What I am
saying is, I knew a woman, she lived near me
in the house of the unsaid, its refrigerator powered
by an antique pull cord, live wires lashing within
her walls — that her tub, it was clawfoot; the trim,
black walnut. In paint-peeled closets
were headless torsos she once dressed, and
pinking shears, fawn-colored scraps of velveteen.
In its dried gourd she rattled, rattled.
When moon-suited firemen climbed inside,
the upstairs window was singing with flies.
Death bled into the not-finished dresses —
what I am saying is, no one could find
a walker, a garbage can, her purse, or her keys.
I am saying — she would agree — The way
the pattern is fitted against the bolt of cloth
matters before you are done. We worry, now
who moves in? The house festers, it swells;
she turned inside it, unable to say how
it became unmanageable, why
she hid notes in the drawers, addressed
To the Man Who Steals My Electricity.
Katrina Vandenberg is the author of The Alphabet Not Unlike the World (forthcoming) and Atlas (2004), both published by Milkweed Editions. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches in the MFA program at Hamline University.