Today's poem is by Dolores Hayden

For Rent
Difficile est proprie communia dicere.
It is difficult to speak of what is common
in a way of your own.
—Horace, Ars Poetica


Sheathed in weathered boards, false front
on all four sides, the red house rides
a saddle of eroded ground

and looks as if it might wash down
in winter rains. But reader, this
is the very oldest house around.

It's much too high for neighborhood.
From worn-out steps long views expand,
command wide axes everywhere,

entice your kind of hairpin vision,
a swaying wide and cambering in.
The city sounds don't reach us here.


Hummingbirds sip hibiscus cups.
A red-tailed hawk circles, plummets
into the canyon, reappears.

The mailbox sags. Century plants
split broken, almost impassable steps—
they flower every hundred years.

Reader, you know the place needs work,
ungrudging cultivation, a poet
like you to weed in noonday heat,

count pairs of small blue butterflies,
repair the broken hearth, stoke fires
with eucalyptus or mesquite.


Due north lie wooded peaks too steep
for cut and fill. Packs of coyotes
scavange their slopes, noise through the nights.

Eastward sits gated Mount Olympus,
muscle-bound mansions, turquoise pools,
an acre Omega, party lights.

If you stare south across the grid
where cowboy towns crowd French chateaux,
terrazzo stars spell H O L L Y W O O D.

Look west, above a beach you'll glimpse
Palisades Park, where hungry men
cut whirligig toys they trade for food.


The old red house rents month-to-month.
No boiler plate, security,
some Septembers, the well goes dry.

You think you might be interested?
Skywriting pilots buzz this house,
roaring cloud vowels a half-mile high.

Dusk swims with wispy backlit cirrus,
three-mile nouns stretch out your eye,
wild verbs advance, alacrify,

moonrise carves commas in your sky.
Reader, you're sure you want to sign?
Hooked on the place? So am I.

Copyright © 2004 Dolores Hayden All rights reserved
from Southwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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