Life Without Furniture by Sharon McDermott

Housed everywhere but nowhere shut in,
                        this is the motto of the dreamer of dwellings...

                                                ~ Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

It has always been this way with the map-makers:
Seaweed starts to burn. Plates shift.

Clouds drift off compass, skew the direction of needles.

Always the map-makers: mindful of the edge
of the world and its sailors clinging to it for dear life.

Lost, adrift, skiffs weathered in an ocean’s current
or beholden to pine needles, asleep and

dreaming of thick-inked boundary waters
and blue drawings of elephants
tipsy on the coastline.

Those fabled cartographers pinned our where to a relief
of crossed lines, tousled vines,
our back porches overburdened with leaves

and there, the last words of crows
dogging us through dusk and the alleyways,
where a puddle trembles of its own accord.

We are here, at least for now. Here and ravenous
for rugs and shelves and soup tureens
and drawers full of matches and twine.

Boots, horns and continents and so much liquid drive—
The ambition of curtains, sills, and hardwood planks,

which builds this closure, enclosure, this more-than-yourself.

(We are clams; we are oysters with grit in our mantles.)

Oh weary cartographers, slake our desire for the new world:
four chairs, a square. And walls where spiders paint Matisse
markings against a white backdrop.

Always, the cave wall with its first etchings:

this latitude of light, and hair that smells of lemongrass
this longitude of tunneling rain.


Sharon McDermott teaches at a private high school, Winchester Thurston School. She was awarded a 2002 PA Council on the Arts award. She has published three chapbooks, Voluptuous, Alley Scatting (2005, Parallel Press), and her most recent, Bitter Acoustic (2011), selected by the poet, Betty Adcock, as the winner of the Jacar Press chapbook award.