Homecoming | Patrick Reichard

Before I turned 5, my 6 year old sister died in our first house 
Make-believe friends I talked to on an invisible phone made my mother cry 
So perched on my father's thighs, I steered the moving van toward brighter concrete streets
Mom said we needed more space 
And my 2 older brothers and I shared 1 of 4 bedrooms 

Kid number 9 started pushing his way into our Christmas photos 
And the oldest sister needed her own room 
So we kicked out the back of our new house 
Building a basement bedroom and a dining room that could seat all 10 of us at once 
My sisters danced on the table
But I stared out to the mound of earth and boulders excavated 
And standing atop the precipitous valley at the end of our backyard 
We rolled those boulders down, watching them crack the bark off trees
Then I turned the hose onto the dirt pile, building streams and mud pits we bathed in 
I told mom we needed more space 
She pretended not to notice, and I now shared a room with my 2 younger brothers 

We grew out of the fantasy games and played football in that backyard 
After my oldest sister went off to college, I had my own room  
And I stayed awake writing and reading my first poems, condemning myself to loneliness 
Mom had thought I needed more space 
When the oldest returned, I moved to the basement bedroom with my 2 older brothers 

Our bodies pressed out again, and a back brick patio put an end to football 
The new mud was just mud and I didn't want to get my shoes muddy anymore 
When I went off to college, I came back only to clean my clothes and eat for free 
I had the house to myself one night 
So I sat at my father's chair, ate his steak, drank his beer 
And I blasted music that only I loved
I wrote a poem about finding my space by dancing around the table 
But I slept in the basement bedroom that night hoping someone would wake me 

Coming home with my first girlfriend, I sat with her in our backyard 
And I told her about the addition, boulders, and football games 
My mother hid and cried because the girl looked like my dead sister 
She cried too when I broke up with her years later 
Though I didn't know about these things until a sister told me, months later
When my parents were at church, commemorating the birthday
Mom needed her space, apparently 
And I slept alone for a long time afterward 

I had driven home all night, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee to stay awake
No one was there but I could hear the creaking of an aging house
I walked up the stairs my father could no longer manage with his MS 
Pissed in the toilet of his former bedroom 
And recalled as a boy watching him piss in it, admiring his size and capacity 
I had more space than I wanted 
In his old bed, a poem came to me but was lost the next morning
Now at 30, I'm fighting sleep as I write this line, 
A woman waits for me to lie down and asks what I'm doing with the light on 
She is sick with a bladder infection 
And tries to sleep in my parents' old bedroom for a night on our way home
They have miraculously procured antibiotics for her and fed us, 
Turning a willful blind eye to what we were up to on our pre-marital vacation together 
She softly cries in the room where I caught them in a primal scene the year we moved in
My mother hid her face in shame and my father, angry, told me to get out 
I'm sorry. I was scared, and I didn't know about space 
They have their rules, so I tiptoe back to my old bedroom, missing the ghost of my dead             sister

 read about the author Contributors.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
The Figure of Authority | Thomas King
What Mary Did | Sarah Layden
Tithonus | C.E. Chaffin
Homecoming | Patrick Reichard
How You Remember Her | Amy Reed
The Night of the Iguana | Derek Pollard
Generations of Leaves | Taylor Graham
Three Poems | Patrick Loafman

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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | summer 2007