The Upstairs Rooms
By Danita Dodson
October 15, 2023
October 15, 2023
Two upstairs rooms—one pink, one blue—
once were collages of life and heirlooms
in a home where love grew like tall trees,
but now all they contain are quiet ghosts
who once walked the linoleum garden,
where my feet have stepped into daisies
growing out of the first room into the other,
no door between them, only a doorframe
—open—where my father and uncle once
as kids shared freely the heart of their lives,
when grace walked these backwoods beams.
An oak quilt chest sits under a pink sky,
and two black horses gallop on the wall,
heralds above iron-post beds moved from
the family’s first home in the holler.
At the foot of one bed is an worn trunk
my grandfather’s grandfather carried out
of Virginia with him to Tennessee.
Mamaw’s dresses are in the walk-in closet.
The Victrola brings the Carter Family
here to chaunt “Keep on the Sunny Side,”
while a tall pump organ uplifts old hymns.
I blink, and the furniture is a mirage,
only a phantom—not here at all,
just a dream a once-little girl recalls.
When the truth sets in, the past has passed,
and the beds, the quilt chest, the trunks all
dissolve into gossamer, claimed years ago
by one family member or another.
As I sit on the dirt-laced linoleum,
talking to mute walls and empty closets,
in wistful acceptance I thank God that
at least the daisies were the last to go.
Danita Dodson is an educator, literary scholar, and the author of two poetry collections, Trailing the Azimuth (2021) and The Medicine Woods (2022). Dodson’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Salvation South, Critique, Tennessee Voices Anthology, Amethyst Review, and elsewhere. She is a native of the Cumberland Gap region of East Tennessee, where she hikes and explores local history connected to the wilderness. Read more at www.danitadodson.com.