Friday, March 21, 2008

on remembering the mobile homes in my life

there was a moment (late 60s, early 70s)
when the mobile home seemed destined for glory

armies of shining American families
roaming from mountains majesty to fruited plain

their homes (lives, loves, fears, memories, dreams) in tow
like artillery pieces in our American war on permanence

it didn’t last long—mobile home stripped of wanderlust
is just a trailer

no amount of rebranding could cleave our humanity
entirely from its sense of place

conceptual shift: weapon to meat wagon
dragging the underclass American wounded and their baggage

from cradle to grave, multipurpose to the end
functioning neatly as a Super-Sized rolling metal casket

mother’s story, not mine
legend of my young childhood still destined for greatness
protagonist laureled home from swedish-american hospital
to the mobile home park that would be the launching point for my exploits

i imagine the horns wailing sometimes
mom whirling in panic on the concrete patio
her turn (as dreamed) much more grahamesque than warranted
eyes skitting round the kiddie pools, pink flamingoes, white and seafoam aluminum

seeking out some sign of her only born son
horns still blaring, she sprints toward the sound
(as effectively as the word “sprint” can be applied
to a young married woman on gravel in slippers, housecoat and curlers)

towards the main road, the highway
she stops short at the culvert, pebbles trickling onto the asphalt
source of the commotion: happy motoring brought to a standstill
source of the standstill: her son on a bright red tricycle, pedaling merrily down

the center stripe

as rivers go, the Fox is an amiable sociopath

sepia toned memories of father-son fishing its forested, mosquito-owned banks
dull sheen of angst drifting through flashbacks of baptisms held in its muddy currents
like a chemical spill still expanding, diluting, floating downstream

dad had sold the trailer in all its
embossed aluminum and knotty pine glory
to a friend who co-owned this piece of river’s edge

taken off its too small wheels and hastily installed on a cinder-block foundation
it shared an uncomfortable stasis with humanity:
not capable of fully inhabiting one’s place in the world

not able to move on gracefully. temporarily

the no-longer mobile home
(intended for the soon-to-be happily married) breaks free
regains the independence taken away

spring rains being particularly biblical that year
the trailer was found 400 yards downstream
broken against an iron bridgepost, wrecked striving for the road

another common trait

no tornadoes yet

grandmother’s farm
rolling over 20 acres of hay, ramshackle barns
and exhausted machinery
held tightly to its two abandoned trailers
working tirelessly to absorb them into the scragged landscape

joined together to form a stubby “L”, henceforth immobile
left behind by the good for nothing son
drunkenshiftelesswifebeating son
(according to the clan’s conservative party)
the scene of the not technically a crime

his children (my cousins)
would sometimes share summer exile (exhilation?) on the farm
my sister and i playing house among the chickens
who had come home to roost
trying to decode the liturgy of a happy family life

cousins afraid to set foot inside
immobile at the door
afraid of ghosts
of memories
of memories of ghosts

they burned sometime later
gutted with fire
taking several of grandma’s prize hens with them
no-one bothered to call the vfd
by the time they would have arrived

there was nothing left to save

post-retirement lifetime of office and factory work
(interspersed with God’s Work)
relocation traditional in location
(south of the brilliant chromaticity of fall)
traditionally non-traditional in approach

5 acres of dirt at the end of a dirt road
soft pine growing like weeds
larger trees recently cut and chain-dragged
for the purpose of split-levels
and books by wm. shakespeare and a. coulter

they arrived with their trailer in tow
an 18-foot recreational jobee that had seen sea to shining sea
a Wanderer in brand name and seasonal practice
now anchored to red red claydirt
itinerant no more

it’s remarkable how long two people can live together
in 150 square feet
artifacts of the last great depression, they scavenged
the broken, the unnecessary, the irrelevant (so dad said)
because it might come in handy later

two years they managed in that rectangular prism
until their hoard of uselessness overwhelmed them
they bought a larger trailer (beige with chestnut trim)
and recommenced their retirement responsibilities
related to the accumulation of stuff

sometime later, they would both leave the trailer to die
banished from their compulsion for their final days
what else is left to say
it took three months to dispose of their lives

viscous silence filled the trailer to the ceiling
although passers by would be none the wiser
no leakage from the prefab structure to reveal internal goings on
a schrödinger’s box in the offing

we only made these visits so often when father worked
away from home for weeks, months on end
finding the cheapest rental available
sometimes with other construction men, this time alone

we sat around the formica tabletop
in chairs struggling to maintain their original form and function
chipped and missing laminate creating the map of
a mottled orange nebula in a dark sky

mother busying herself in the background
warming pie in the toaster oven and brewing weak coffee
struggling to make a clean spot
trailer shrugging off her manic intent

our stay would end after an hour or two
sufficient time being necessary to make the long
journey back to our house without father
and for him to be

he never had much to say
during these irregular interruptions to his ramshackle monastery
intensity of family dysfunction compressed by
gravity of the passing moment in spacetime

singularity conjured forth
from which heat and light and life cannot escape
passers by surely curious about the outcome
but afraid to disrupt the superposition

no tornadoes

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