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Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE STORY OF HOW WE SURVIVE

by Rachel Kellum


After 2 dry weeks of 100 plus degrees I turn off the window unit,
open my midnight window to smell the 30 minute rain.

I have a home with 30 windows. Some cracked.
100 and 4 years of many paned inefficiency.

I don’t always keep the floors clean, or doorjambs.
2 dogs and 3 kids. Moths pee red on the walls.
How many surfaces count as walls? I don’t count them.

But there are windows and doors and walls.

Even a 1-room Colorado cabin in the foothills firefighters saved.
They waited for flames that never came across the dale.

That woman in Rolling Stone living in her minivan in Santa Barbara,
who used to own and operate a desert friendly greenhouse before the crash,
drybrushing her teeth and spitting at the edge of parking lots—
she has windows, doors and walls, too, countable, and rain, uncountable.

I want to ask her to live in my unfinished basement. In wet years,
it leaks. But I have a futon bed for her, even 2. The asking is a dream.

On the street, handing out her resume, she earns more if she cries.
I’m ashamed. Have a 40 grand job with summers off and complain.

White paint peels off my garage. Plastic carpet peels off the porch.
The garden almost burned up the 2 weeks I was away.
The patchy lawn is green from the road.

My van now sits empty on the street. Last week on the way home
from Seattle, my daughter and I slept in a Walmart parking lot in Idaho.
At midnight we heard a couple argue. He got her pregnant
and wouldn’t tell his parents, she screamed. I slept through it.
My daughter couldn’t. In the morning I drove while she dreamed flames.

It was a bargain luxury, I see, to live on 50 bucks a day plus gas,
to vacation on a futon in my minivan, scouting my child’s future
as a fire fighter in a place where it almost always rains.
The men tell her she has what it takes. She reads the books they gave
and prays for upper body strength.

We stayed in the northwest for free. 3 strangers took us in.
The family you can find online! Travelers on the cheap.
Because we have a numbered home, they gave us beds.

When you live in a van no one trusts you, Santa Barbara said.
Despite the resume, the woman looking to hire a dog walker
changed face: How can you not have an address? Money? You’re 45?
The rolling stone took her hand and cried, I’m still the same.

Parking between 2 safe lines, she vacations in the views.
Today the choice is mountain or sea.
Which direction will she face? West or east?

The world dreams a dream in which it is not our home.
Home is a house. The homeless know the lie.

Home is the space inside the story of how we survive.


Rachel Kellum lives on the eastern plains of Colorado where she teaches writing, humanities and art classes at Morgan Community College and chairs the visual arts program of MCC's Center for Arts and Community Enrichment. Her poetry has been featured in several online venues, including Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, Four Corners Free Press, Blood Lotus, Slow Trains, The Telluride Watch, The New Verse News and others.  In 2008 one of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Most recently, Rufous Press featured two of her poems in the international collection, Lush.  Kellum performs her poetry around Colorado and blogs at wordweeds.com, where you can learn more about her background and read her latest work. Her first book, ah, will be released by Liquid Light Press later this summer.
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