Lisa Russ Spaar

She Leans
June 11, 2012 Spaar Lisa Russ

She Leans

after a photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine


A house: scoured and scarred by wind, its unpainted

boards aligned in contrasting verticals of dark and light,

with a chimney that leans a little as the house leans.

Four broken-out windows on facing sides

allow a bird, many birds, to fly easily in and out,

like a mind in the midst of its own vacancy, trying

and failing to hold onto its own rapid, chattering thoughts.


A house unto itself that leans but does not fall.

Being but never doing (is being enough?),

storied and memoried (or has it forgotten everything?),

does it wonder why that florid, over-dramatic sky

can never make up its mind what it wants to do?

Or what happens to those pink and purple clouds

when they drop over a razor-thin line of horizon?


Taking it all in, coming back to it day after day,

moving toward it and then moving away, walking

in cautious clockwise circles around it, peering

curiously into its endless gloom, then stepping

over the doorframe into a perfectly empty room

(no, not empty, there’s a curling calendar from 1952),

do you think it has nothing to do with you?  Do you?


Lisa Russ Spaar is the author/editor of over ten poetry collections and anthologies. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, and the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is a professor at the University of Virginia.