The Upstairs Room
Through living room and dining room and kitchen to the mangle,
turn left and left again and then we’d have the stairs to wrangle.
The window in the upstairs hall streamed down shafts of light
sliced open by the balusters that overlooked the flight.
They created different angles at different times of day,
as though they were the playground where the sun had come to play.
Sometimes I climbed them slower at the end of day.
Sometimes I climbed them sleepily with toes feeling the way.
Often I went faster, avoiding Mom’s fly swatter
as she threatened more than swatted, this errant, sassing daughter.
Up the stairs and to the right—my dormered cheery room
with floor to ceiling windows that dispelled any gloom.
Between the angled dormers, meeting in a V,
was the room I always wanted, so that V spelled victory.
Linoleum I picked myself, bright green across the floor.
Soft yellow above it: ceiling, walls and door.
Flower-adorned bedspread—white with yellow roses.
Propped against its pillow shams, dolls in different poses.
A vanity with arms that spread to show the drawers inside
covered with a ruffled skirt that was my joy and pride.
It matched the tie-back curtains that matched the rose-decked bed.
It was the perfect dreamed-of room that danced inside my head.
Up there with my sisters, my nursery downstairs changed
into a brand new dining room with lots of chairs arranged
around a long wood table we used for holidays
beneath that upstairs window where I now sat and gazed
at high school boys returning from games of basketball
in the high school up the road, Doc Murphy out on call,
big kids playing ditch ’em or other kids on bikes,
teenagers with hot rods, toddlers pedaling trikes.
A sweet pea bush climbed up the wall and a trumpet vine,
trying to get up to share this room that I called mine.
Lonely sometimes upstairs in a night that never ends—
one sister still out at the dance, the other at her friend’s.
Robbers in the walls that daddy said were mice,
but they were robbers in my dreams, more than once or twice.
Scary noises in the street. Big boys walking by.
Wondering where folks really went when it came time to die.
Nice when my oldest sister finally came on home
and climbed in bed beside me so I was not alone.
“Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” she promised every time,
then fell asleep before my turn—that sneaky sister’s crime.
Other houses, other rooms. So many in my life.
As a teen, in college, as a lover, as a wife.
Every room was special but none quite like the first—
that big girl room that quenched a youngest sister’s thirst.
For NaPoWriMo today, the prompt was to write about a room from our past.