Thursday, September 2, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 12 (Andrew Joron)

The Sound Mirror
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Joron, Andrew
The Sound Mirror

Sent to me by the publisher.

We left off yesterday at the completion of the first floor renovation of our house on Dearborn St. The second floor was just as involved. The layout upstairs was similar, though the kitchen space was smaller and two of the bedrooms were so small they hardly deserved the name.

We painted the back staircase. We were also forced to do a minor bit of wall repair in the stairwell after we discovered a live Starling had gotten stuck in the wall. Lori was walking down the stairs one day when she heard a noise. She called me and we realized that the sound was coming from inside the walls of the staircase. Not being handy in any way, shape or form, I couldn't imagine a way to save it, so I thought we were going to have to let it die. Lori, being much more handy than I, told me we were going to isolate the sound, then cut a hole in the wall to release whatever was in there.

She cut the first hole in the ceiling, but it was in the wrong spot. We soon figured out it was in one of the walls. We carved out a small hole and suddenly the bird poked its little speckled head through it. Before we increased the size of the hole, we opened the window on the landing so it could fly out. I held up a large piece of cardboard to block the passage up the stairway and to guide the frightened bird out the window. Lori opened cut open the hole and out it flew.

(This also inspired a poem, "Poem for the Birds," which appeared in To Be Sung, my first book.)

At the top of the back stairs was a rung radiator beneath a window. While renovating the upstairs, we used that window to dump debris into a large pile in our back yard. The radiator stood at the head of a narrow corridor with seventies era wood panelling used as wainscoting. There were four doors on the corridor. Straight ahead from the top of the stairs was the bathroom, another pink job with more linoleum, more exposed brick that had been shellacked, and a lot of clunk wood towel racks, toilet seats, toothbrush holders from the eighties. Weirdly, it had a phone outlet next to the toilet.

Just to the right of the stairs a door led up to the attic, which spanned the length of the house. Some kids had used it as a clubhouse or something in the seventies. They had walled in the part at the top of the stairs with these Partridge Family Bus-colored panels. There was also a lot of lovers' graffiti in one corner. We found a 1976 playboy next to a bottle of baby aspirin: you tell me. We used the attic for storage, especially of all the wood that had potential for re-use after we'd removed it from various parts of the house.

Past the attic door was another door to a very small bedroom and opposite that another door to another pathetically small bedroom. The corridor ended in a small kitchen with cheap eighties cabinets and a gorgeous built-in hutch made of knotty pine and glass fronted cabinets.

A door led from that room into a dining room, which we used as our bedroom. It had a beautiful bay shape with windows on either side of the bed and a simple stained glass window above it. (I forgot to mention yesterday that downstairs, above the couch in the living room, was a stained glass window depicting a swan on a lake. We hated it at first, but grew to like it over time. There was another floral window next to the front door, also).

Opposite the bed to the right was a beautiful little room with a walk-in closet. It had windows on three sides and a pristine tin ceiling, painted white. When we first moved in, I realized that a chimney ran through the room. I removed the plaster and wainscoting around it to reveal the brick. As I pulled the wainscoting off several postcards fell out. Two of them showed a photo of the house circa 1901 and were advertising it as a boarding house for the Pan Am Exposition. One was in German and was addressed to a Mr. Eberz, who built the house. Two others were ads for local businesses, one of them a clothier. I forget the other.

Pocket doors (oh, yeah, there were pocket doors in the same spot downstairs, too), opened into a large living room with an alcove. This room took up the whole front of the house looked out onto the street. We used it as Lori's studio.

Our renovations were pretty major. Back in the hallway, we gutted the bathroom and the bedroom next to it, removing a wall between them. We sealed both doors in the passageway and then built a door leading into the kitchen at the other end, creating what came to be known as 'bathroom stadium.' It was a spectacular bathroom, with a cast iron tub given to us by a friend, and a custom shower all done in slate. (Our neighbor built and plumbed it, though we did do the tile work). We had a clear glass double vanity with clear glass sinks, slate floors, and a beautiful suede finish on the walls, painted by Lori.

The second bedroom became Lori's walk-in closet. The kitchen became a laundry room. The hutch became a bookcase. We carpeted the floor in the laundry and the back hall and, I think, in Lori's closet. The carpet was chocolate brown. We did nothing in the bedroom. Lori painted it a soft green to match the bedding. The room with the windows was my de facto closet, but it also served as a sitting room, exercise area, or whatever. We painted all the wood a light brown and the walls a soft white. The closet was painted dark brown and stayed that way. We also painted the wood floor dark brown in that room because it was in such bad shape.

Lori's studio wasn't really painted until we moved out. She used the alcove for her desk and computer. I remember that when we removed the foyer below we exposed the plumbing from a radiator by the window. Our neighbor moved it over to another wall in order to hide the pipes behind the drywall downstairs.

We had a small back yard with covered patio off the garage. We also had a concrete patio area just out the back of the house, which we never really used. Lori kept a small flower garden in the beds surrounding the yard in back and another in the front of the house. It was a lovely home in a neighborhood we couldn't stand. We were sad to leave the place, but such is life.

from The Sound Mirror

Inside a Ruined Observatory

          stone is ascendant.

Here the eye
          was stopped inside a star, as the self
          inside a scar.

Only a red leaf remains
To disprove the telescope.

Under the dome, the mind still turns
          as melancholic as mechanical.

Above, a ceiling-walker
Has left
          just one footprint, by angelic logic.

Perhaps there is nothing to say--blues
          advance into invisibilities.

          a mirror is the right receiver
          for these words without reference--

          acausal, the are always to come
          apart, depart

          shadow-freighted, rolling
          like waves recessive from the shore.

          curve, cursive, curse.

Cold enters everything--
That quiet disquiet
          that refuses quotation.

          Softly, as in an evening sunrise.


walk-in wardrobe said...

What exactly is The Sound Mirror?

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Beyond being the title to the collection of poems, I am not really sure. He does a lot of playful things with words that rhyme, sound alike, look alike on the page -- that could be the kind of mirror he means.