Rita Dove

The House on Bishop Street

No front yard to speak of,
just a porch cantilevered on faith
where she arranged the canary’s cage.
The house stayed dark all year
though there was instant light and water.
(No more gas jets hissing,

their flicker glinting off
Anna Rettich’s midwife spectacles
as she whispered think a baby
and the babies came.) Spring
brought a whiff of cherries, the kind
you boiled for hours in sugar and cloves

from the yard of the Jewish family next door.
Yumanski refused to speak so
she never bought his vegetables
at the Canal Street Market. Gertrude,
his youngest and blondest,
slipped by mornings for bacon and grits.
There were summer floods and mildew

humming through fringe, there was
a picture of a ship she passed
on her way to the porch, strangers calling
from the street Ma’am, your bird
shore can sing! If she leaned out she could glimpse
the faintest of mauve - no more than an idea -
growing just behind the last houses.