Writers Institute

Paper Houses and Fluid Things

Sarah Cox


When you call from Japan on a Monday morning,
I return to bed to learn the sounds of your now-foreign
voice. I nod into the pillow as you narrate
your countryside life; the hills you bike to the school
where you change your shoes at the door and teach
the muddy English you’d rather forget. You say
that your house has gotten too cold already, the walls a laugh
against fall winds, and so you’ve started blocking yourself in
with cardboard from a shop’s trash pile next door.
You cover your walls with boxes unfolded
like giant, perforated origami lessons, and even as we talk
you have the phone under your chin, your hands busy
moving over your bedroom’s last naked planes.
I blink at my own staid, painted walls, in awe
that you’re papering your house over in preparation for winter.

I almost tell you about the new maybe-love
I’m chasing. I think I’d like it to upset you,
to cause some kind of emotion I could imagine unfolding
in your dark house’s creases. I’d like to tell you endlessly
about how he and I deal in water and dirt, not paper,
how he swims with me in the depths of my stories;
about our mutual interest in earth’s boundaries and go-betweens.
But you and I now have the excuse of oceans
to justify our separeate lives and secrets,
so I speak only of design: suggest a multitude
of folded paper-cranes hung in a wave
over your bed. Yes, you say,
knowing the impractical impresses me,
and I hate that I imagine myself then, approaching
your bedside under fragile avian shadows.

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