by Susie Whelehan | The Sky Laughs At Borders


When I think about my childhood home

Mom is hanging the laundry in the back,

Dad is mowing the lawn in the front,

my brothers are battling with green, plastic

army men in the dirt hole beside the garage,

my baby sister is sleeping in the buggy on the porch

and my dog is licking me and wants her belly rubbed.

All my stuff is there.

In the garage—

my pogo stick, hula hoop, and bike

with coloured streamers on the handlebars.

In my room—

Nancy Drews 1-5, a drawstring bag of jacks, my diary with a key,

my box of 64 crayons with the sharpener built right in.

In the record holder of the stereo cabinet—

“Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks”.  I loved Alvin.

On the mantel, my first Holy Communion photo.

I’m angelic in white dress, white veil, white ankle socks,

white patent leather shoes.

Boys couldn’t see the reflection

of my white underpants in those. Thank God.

In the medicine chest in the bathroom—

St. Joseph’s Aspirin, a thermometer, Colgate toothpaste

and the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly I used

to shine my shoes on Saturday nights.

And down the street—

all those tidy, green lawns

and tidy, shingled houses

with tidy, happy housewives

working in their gardens,

each one with her tools in a peach basket,

her pedal-pushers, sun hat,

and two breasts.

Everyone had two breasts.

My mom was the first to lose one. At 42.

4 years later, the other.

1 year later, her life.


Today, if you flew over that street,

or your own,

with a machine that detected families touched—

no, scorched

by breast cancer—

houses would light up creating concentrated constellations

to rival the night sky.