Broken Houses, Just Across the Hall

By Jenny Belardi

Broken Houses

Adele wears black t-shirts
with names of bands
I don’t know,
bands I nod along with
in her car because the lyrics
strike me like a match.

She drives to abandoned houses
in parts of town I never visit.
They’re far from tennis
and cheer
and the mall.

We enter through holes cut for windows
never filled with glass.
We sit on grass and beams and barrels
and it feels like she should take a cigarette
from her jean shorts,
but she doesn’t.

I can almost hear my parents’ screaming,
then realize it’s sirens in the distance.
That ambulance won’t be coming here,
where there are only
empty holes for windows.

“World Through Broken Glass” © Groman 123 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pkirtz/15075630083/)

Just Across the Hall

Sybil’s room, just across the hall
and under the same roof,
is a world away.

There, old papier-mâché princes
hover over photos
of longer legs than I’ve seen in real life.
Dresses meant for beauty queens
float on tufted hangers,
and cat-eyed sunglasses
admire themselves in the mirror.

I close my blinds night and day,
but Sybil opens her brocade curtains
when we leave for school.
She picked them out special
because they matched
an idea in her head.

I wonder if the yelling
sounds different to Sybil,
since she’s closer to the stairs.

I try to reach out but can’t.
Then a gift appears.
The book’s jacket is gone but
it doesn’t take long to tell.
It’s about stars and rockets –
Sybil has been listening.

Jenny Belardi’s work has also appeared in Windmill and Sixfold. She lives in Pittsburgh where she is the Director of Development at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. She’s putting the finishing touches on a speculative novel about 2027 Boston.

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