Poem – I Built You a House

I need to learn to be more open about the things that shaped me most. That’s part of the motivation behind the whole starting a blog thing. I have a stack of musings and tid bits that I’ve never shared with the world, and this is the place where, when I work up the courage, I will post them. I’m starting with this one, the story that started it all. Questions and comments are welcomed. Content warnings are offered for those sensitive to child death or gas lighting. Without further ado, here’s “I Built You a House”

I Built You a House

I built you a house, baby girl, and it was hideous.  
I was five-years-old when your mother called your grandmother to tell me that you died. 
You died. 
No. 
You were murdered. 
No. 
You died. 
You slipped down between the bed and the wall and you suffocated. 
No. 
The babysitter was high and she killed you. 
No.  
My sister, your mother, wasn’t home for a reason. 

I built you a house. 
I need to see things to understand them, 
but I never saw your house, apartment, condo, thing.  
I needed to build you a house 
so I could walk through it, 
deconstruct it, bit by bit. 

So, I built you a house in the back of my mind, 
tucked between my hopes and my nightmares. 
The walls were rotten, and black, and decay. 
Each lie became a nail fixing another stud at an unwelcome angle: 
sweet and broken. 


I built you a house so I could see it, 
but I never saw you either, 
never saw your body sleep in the flat wooden crib, 
never heard your corpse clarify the events that night. 

So, I brought you into the house. 
placed your shifting, morphing, essence between the bed and the wall 
and under the sink 
and strewn about the floor.  

I built you a house, 
and I visited every day 
bringing offerings of guilt. 

I’m sorry. 
I’m sorry that I was born. 
I’m sorry that they chose me. 
That when our family asked 
“Who can afford to live?” 
They looked at my light skin and my orange eyes,  
and they saw a future, 
and they didn’t look at you at all- 
or maybe they did, 
and they loved to watch you slip into your darkness- 
or maybe they loved you, and if they hadn’t wanted to keep me safe 
you wouldn’t have been in the shack that night. 

So many lies 
paved into the concrete below that house. 

I built you a house, with moldy carpets and broken mirrors 
and tiny, tiny rooms. 
When no one was looking, I forced myself to climb inside 
I love you, baby girl, and I’m sorry. 

I brought you news, sweet niece. 
Your sisters are grown, they do not know me, 
but I know that they love you. 
Your brother is making it, baby girl. 
Your mother is working, they do not know me, 
but they love you. 

I built you a house 
and kept you nestled in my head. 
between my hopes and my nightmares 
to remind me who I am. 

I am me, the girl with the orange eyes. 
I am you, the girl with the charcoal eyes. 
I am trying so hard to live for both of us 
to be enough for both of us: 
to do enough, to see enough, to love enough 

We can do so much. 
We can save the world. 

I built you a house, 
and it was hideous. 
I thought that I could find your happiness in that house, 
but the shards, the splinters of all that I wasn’t infected my skin. 
Bits of strength, and intelligence, and caring burrowed in, 
became inflamed 
so that our skin became perfect: 
Submissive, 
fearfully kind, 
diligent, 
nice. 
You know I tried! 
Inflammation hurts. 

I built you a house, 
but Being perfect is exhausting 
and I couldn’t bring in enough food for the both of us. 
so I gave you a prom, 
and a graduation, 
and a baptism, 
and a family, 
and I let you leave the house, complete. 

I built you a house, 
and I kept it 
long after you left, 
and it grew, and it throbbed, 
and it grated at the back of my mind. 
It pressed into my hopes and my nightmares. 
It needed to leave, but it was all that I had left of you when I let you go. 

I needed you. 

I went looking again. 
Outside of my mind. 
Snuck out of the conference in Salt Lake City, 
hopped on a bus 
to get to another bus 
to get on a train 
to walk  
to look. 

Baby girl, you had a house 
with brick walls, and large rooms, 
and a white picket fence, 
and a park in front 
with mountains and flowers. 

I heard laughter at the library down the street, 
and the house I built you, I tore it down, 
its dark tendrils retreating from my every synapse.

I built you a house, and it was hideous. 
But, baby girl, the morning after whatever happened 
Easter, 1999 
the sun rose, 
and there were mountains, and there were flowers, 
and there was a home, built just for you. 

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll keep the mountains. 

The Blog-y Part

I don’t want to just drop this here and not talk about inspiration. Yes, the event itself and all that came with it was some of the inspiration, but Sierra Demulder’s “Mrs. Dahmer” was the prompt that got me to sit it down and get it to paper. I highly recommend all of her works.

What has you writing this week?

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