Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Picket Fence Committee" (original)

Complete thanks to the efforts of various audience members is this poem from the Monster House series.  It's the linkbacks perk for the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  The following people posted linkbacks: marina_bonomi, janetmiles, thesilentpoet, meeksp, xjenavivex, wyld_dandelyon, aldersprig, and minor_architect.  Special thanks to minor_architect for handling the verse-by-verse post during the fishbowl.

This poem comes near the beginning of the Monster House series, shortly after the purchase of the house.  We get to learn the name of the street and see how the house interacts with an unwelcome interloper.

EDIT 9/8/11: Read a revised and expanded version.

The Picket Fence Committee

Not long after moving in
to the house on Hollow Oak Drive,
I met the Picket Fence Committee.
They billed themselves as one of those
"neighborhood beautification" groups,
but their plans seemed lacking
in both neighborliness and beauty.

"This house is a disgrace,"
the tall man grumbled.
"It's bringing the property values down."

"Yes," I said through my teeth,
"that's why I could afford to buy it."

Just then a loose board gave way
and dropped his foot through the front porch.
Cursing loudly, he pulled his leg free.
He had to crawl under the porch
to retrieve his shiny black shoe.

"... heap of ... falling-down, dilapidated ..."
More complaints floated up through the porch floor,
and as he scrambled back out, ended with,
"... and ought to be condemned!"

I leaned over the rail and said,
"Well, the ad did  specify it as a fixer-upper."

"Then fix it,"
he said tightly, "up."
He shoved his shoe back on
and stomped away.

"Don't worry," I said, patting the porch rail.
"If that stupid committee proves too much of a nuisance,
I can always hang a No Trespassing sign or something."

As it turned out, the house
proved capable of expressing that sentiment
without my assistance.

When the man came back the following week,
prying at the siding with demands that I repaint the house,
he got his fingers soundly pinched by the gingerbread.
I waved a handful of sample strips at him and shooed him away.
I also ignored his advice.  I mean, honestly:
who puts white  paint on a Victorian?

The suggestion to replace the lovely old ironwork fence
with a white picket fence ended abruptly
when the gate opened a wide rip in the man's pants.
Criticism of the wild condition of the oak trees
was cut off by a hail of acorns.
The sidewalk shifted to trip unwelcome feet;
the driveway manifested sharp nails into tires.

"I've heard stories  about this place,"
he said.  "I'm beginning to think they're all true."

I gave him a bland smile.
The realtor hadn't said any such thing,
but I had my suspicions.

The next time I saw him, I warned him,
"We're having the chimneys cleaned today.
You might want to step back."

"Fireplaces are archaic and dangerous,"
he huffed, glaring at me. 
A load of soot and trash burst from the chimney
and rained down, leaving a bird's nest on his head.

So it went, repairs and recriminations
proceeding apace.  My girl and I did what we could
and hired what we couldn't do ourselves.
Soon the house was presentable if not perfect,
the yard tidied, and all ready for winter.
In spring there would be time to add flowers
and more of the loving little touches that make a house a home.

The last time I saw the man
from the Picket Fence Committee,
I was raking leaves in the front yard.
He stopped his car in the street and yelled out the window,
"I don't see how you can stand to live in that dump!"

"It's easy," I replied,
"as long as I remember about
catching more flies with honey than vingear."

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, horror, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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