2754 (Baker Street)

Two plus seven equals. Was once, slip of a girl, widening her angles. Five plus four equals. Home hung by the roots, upside down. Shaken, snows down: cigarette ash, LPs, a plastic rocking horse with bouncy springs. To see how hard it’s raining, watch where it hits. The faded green elephant print couch lands in the yard, pink cement patio as sky. Fog horns, sawn thorns. I believed it was the bellow of a deep-sea creature, and peep peeped as a baby dinosaur might in return. 

Five plus four equals. Summer, muted under mist, drips from the lemon tree onto the brick lined patio. Two plus seven equals. In the back of the apartment, my mother, being quiet. Mel-an-chol-y (archaic): an excess of black bile, one of the four bodily humors. The ghost limbs twitch and ache. Stretched on the blue and white Laura Ashley print bedspread, tuned to afternoon serenade—three-note birdsong, one long note upward, two shorter ones lilting down. Pretending something but doing nothing. The degree of heaviness corresponds to a capacity for absorption.

Nine plus nine equals. Reduce the digits, one plus eight equals. The self hewn from what could be found. Undoing is the job now, matter pulling away from the old form. Wrung out, sung out. Upside down to dry, the butterfly too, crisps with age. Despite the weather, my father soaked behind his newspaper; other days, snowy ash drizzled on my head from between his fingers. Years-deep succession of winter coats. What was gained in the naming is lost on the named.

Nine is the symbol of completion. Its little tail curled in satisfaction. To go against the grain, splinters. The plain pine desk my mother and I painted white, pocked over years with a paper clip, safety pin, pen tip in elaborate spirals covering the softwood surface. A sanding down of versions takes time, though it begins early—at birth, say—a whittling rather than emergence. Trapped under weight, the tender being grows still. Mid-ring wheeze of the doorbell, stuck. The lizard lost its tail regularly behind the dishwasher. We searched and searched, but the house was clothed in chameleon colors.