The Old Woman In The Attic

By Anonymous

Old woman in the attic came with the house

whose house? which attic?

hiding behind a panel you used to want
some house some day to have: a secret
passage for slaves or Nancy Drew

which attic? whose house?

a passage rusted shut between walls opening
from bookcases, paintings, things you wouldn’t

this house doesn’t have any attic

Still, the old woman: nightly
over your bed the stairs creaking

in dream in waking the spider
on the pillow you wake up
expecting to see
impossible in the dark

because someone, the son
of your next door neighbor has been sneaking her food
nightly: removing the screen from the window

but this isn’t the house

in the dining room no one
ever uses

house of friends where you camped
upstairs, euerything you owned in their
garage, newly lovers, never
intending to stay

sneaking her bits of food
from your own kitchen

house you first/just married found you too
not just your mother loued flowers planted
primula calendula stock you knew had one year
to go before the house was torn down for
the road to Yosemite

Nightly: from your kitchen so little
you’ll never miss it but then she
doesn’t need that much, sitting straight
mannequinned in her chair growing thinner, her dress
long fallen in between her knees, her knees smooth
fence posts, you couldn’t hug her if you tried

And creaking again, the stairs
the old woman all winter and you never
suspecting a thing, the stairs you are sure
are dreams

creaking your aunt coming up to tuck
you in her back room cluttered
with things your own mother never would own
the window fluffed white curtains any one
who wanted could see through

But the screen this morning is open
and climbing through you climb
the secret passage, find her
alone as an answer, a mirror
of light from the dormer window spreading
around her shoes

You cradle her like kindling down
to the kitchen, settle her
between your husband, children, trying
to hug her, to tell her
it’s really all right

To say, if you had to steal from us
at least you could have gotten fat.

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