House Sitting for Mr Brown

by Fielding Ronshaugen

Underneath an overturned flower pot,
are Mr Brown’s keys.
The windows are high, with floor length curtains
that smell like they dried hanging in the garden.

Fading prints hang on the walls in the hallway.
She stands too close to a painting in a frame,
so primary daubs of blue and red and green
(like a television screen)
become blueredgreen
become a girl.

In the sitting room, she touches every book on the shelves.
The slim volumes are paper.
The fat ones feel like her grandmother’s hands.
The words inside are India or Paris, or just ink.

Under the loose floor boards in the kitchen
she finds a box of fairy lights, labeled (neatly)
For When in Need of Cheer.
In her imagination, it is raining.
Mr Brown looks at the grey sky and
makes his ceiling full of stars.

She falls in love (with the house).

She is in love with the wiring.
The electricity is charmingly faulty in the bedrooms.
She imagines Mr Brown reading at night.
He curses congenially when the lights flicker.
His drawer is full of half-used candles.

She is in love with the wallpaper. Most of all
when she imagines Mr Brown with the paste,
smoothing each sheet over the house-bones,
like men who build canvases for painters.

She waters the tomatoes in the garden
on Saturday, as the sheaf of notes instructs.
They are handwritten in long swooping letters.
Mr Brown has bad spelling and good grammar.

She presses herself into the bed sheets.
They are downy, swirling around her like the sea,
white, foaming cream, she dreams.

She wakes – is it the bird on the windowsill?
It is a lingering question.
Is she in love with the brick house
or is she in love with
(an imagined) Mr Brown?