This week’s poem, Jeri Theriault’s “Old House,” brings us along on a journey up into an attic and rich residue of the past. I love this poem’s awed attention to the colors and textiles that once held a woman’s body within them, and to the dual fascination and overwhelm that such encounters can hold.

Jeri Theriault’s recent awards include the 2023 Maine Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the 2023 Monson Arts Fellowship, and the 2022 NORward Prize (New Ohio Review). Her poems and reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, The Texas Review, The Atlanta Review, and many other publications. Her recent collections are Radost, my red, (M)OTHER, and Self-Portrait as Homestead. She is the editor of WAIT: Poems from the Pandemic. Jeri lives in South Portland.

Old House
By Jeri Theriault

You climb to the attic’s clutter where once
you escaped cousins & clamor    to read
your uncle’s comics    to try on your mother’s
girlhood hats    magenta & chestnut.
Now    you find your grandmother’s knife-pleat
plaids    polyester blazers & house dresses.
This velvet surprises you    the inexplicable
cashmere    quintessence of a jacket quilted
in purple silk & Mémère’s    after-all-these-years
sweater    faded to salmon    pilled & full (still)
of her boxy shape. Her hair in a brush.
Spider webs mute the rafters & you can’t
stay in the past any longer    but descend
to sit on the front porch with all your ghosts
& spiked tea    upstairs remote as heaven’s
cracked dishes & forgotten luggage.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. DEEP WATER: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Old House,” © 2024 by Jeri Theriault, appears by permission of the author.

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