Watching a House Renovation Show

By Hannah Marshall

The lives of the briefly famous, the fortunes
sunk into places rich people call home.
What they might tear down,
what they deem worth standing.

Perhaps it is their need for comfort
which makes these calls.
The dumpster departs,
and they are clean.

For me on Tuesday night,
it’s all hypothetical; I owned a house once
for a year, fixed it up, decided to sell.
I rent now, happy

to call the landlord when the shower handle breaks
or a tree falls on the telephone line.
Through all the places I’ve lived as an adult—four rentals
and that one home I briefly owned—

I’ve carried the same furniture,
between Midwestern fields,
across towns, south, then farther south,
and still I dream of somewhere else,

an unknowable there, a crease on the map
in the driver’s-seat door,
a home of maybes
which has nothing to do with

the knots I brush from the hair
at my daughter’s nape,
nor the clicks in my lover’s long spine,
nor the softness these two find in my center.

I have eaten an orange
while I watched the demolition,
and now I re-curl the peel so that it is spherical again,
scarred along my tears but appearing whole.

Fragrant. What it once held
I savored against the warmth of my tongue.
Its dimpled skin remembers my fingernail,
my thumb separating mesocarp from sweetness,

the zest scenting my finger pads,
each soft segment peeled away,
the thin walls now white threads
hanging loose.

Another brightness than what now rides in me
was carried within the orange:
a rind built around hope,
to keep hope from the cold, metal earth,

a place that, in the dark heart of the branch’s hands,
meant safety. Like a womb,
or a living room, laid out with built-ins
and a big, leather couch. Room for everyone, now

that the walls of the kitchen are gone.
Now that the walls are the right color,
and the insulation is thick. Happiness
is so simple, inside such places.


Hannah Marshall lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works at the public library and as the poetry editor for South 85 Journal. Marshall’s poem “This Is a Love Poem to Trees” appears in The Best American Poetry 2021. Her poems have also been published in Poetry Daily, The South Carolina Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in creative writing from Converse College.

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