one day
when i was invisible
i climbed into a window
of an abandoned house
on the other side of the tracks

it was the industrial part of town
where the air was heavy with the rancid smell
of lubricating oil
and rusty auto parts
and the sweat of men
who knew what manhood was

but now the tracks were overgrown
with thickets and broken bottles
and memories that tasted like sulfur
and constipated dreams of a brighter future

the abandoned house
whose window i’d climbed into
welcomed me in

it asked me to sit on the floor
of what had once been the living room

i could see where the couch had been
because there had to have been a couch

i could see where the TV had been
and the side table
and the recliner
where a middle aged man drank beer
that his wife had brought him
from the kitchen that still smelled
of slightly burned casseroles
with too many lima beans
and not enough spices

these things were ghosts now
shadows on the floor

i was a ghost now

but just for the moment
just because i was invisible

i could see the curtains
on the front window
that were always closed
in the evening
so that the middle aged man
could drink beer
and watch archie bunker
and not realize the nation was laughing
at him
not with him

i could see the curtains
on the front window
that were always open
during the day
so that the middle aged woman
could stare out down the street
while she did the cleaning

so she could see the world
that couldn’t see her

just because she was invisible
just like me

the curtains were gone now
all that was left in the room was a layer of dust
and a stained and threadbare carpet
and a few random pieces of detritus
that reminded me that
there used to be lives here

so i sat
criss-cross applesauce
just as i had sat
once upon a time as a child

criss-cross applesauce
in front of the TV
which showed a bigger world
than the window did

everybody needs to see a bigger world
than the one they live in
so they can be reminded
of how invisible
they are

and because there was no TV there
and because there were no curtains
i could see the street outside
the oak tree on the easement
the empty lot across the street
the remnants of a burned down house

to my right a dead end sign
telling people not to use the road
nobody used anymore
to cross the railroad tracks
nobody used anymore
to get to the factory
nobody used anymore

and in that moment

looking at the world
through a grease-streaked window
through the haze of dust
lingering in the dim sunlight
of that living room

listening to the sound
of birds calling to each other
of the machinations of a factory blocks away
of the stillness of the air
from postindustrial collapse

feeling the restless warmth
of a spring day in michigan
shaking off the chill of winter
but not quite mustering
into a summer doldrum

smelling the mildew
of forgotten books
and the desperation
of the casseroles
that lingered far too long

tasting the brittleness
of mortality
as i licked my dry lips
knowing the rusty pipes
would yield no water

in that moment
i was more visible
than i had ever been


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