Stilt-Cutters’ Lament

— Madeleine Dale

The stilt-cutter does not deal in whole things, but
glimpses. Fearful litany of exposed ribs and all their
crimes; burst of drywall that the fist took; copper
veins torn apart. These things are not the heart. When
the carpet is clawed back, this is not the skin.

Someone loved it enough to save, this recollection
of a house, candid and cold without windows. Whole
families of nightjars took up nest in the empty spaces:
cold fireplace, shattered staircase—broken off above
the alluvial plain. These are bones that can be reset.

There is philosophy in dovetails, interlock of
roughed wood; interlace of fingers, grains at cross-
ways. The helixing of DNA—here is the continuance.
One chain to the next, hand over hand. This is not
the heart, but it is the beat, the movement of blood.

The stilt-cutter speaks the language of Theseus, of
singing beams and the bone-ache of boards pulled up.
A choir of things unmade, and made again. The house
becomes new, but not whole: the house becomes whole
from immolation; the paradox written in the walls.

The stilt-cutter does not need to know childhood:
honey-soaked hours of living, palomino curls of
yellow pine, carved falling. Only that foundations must
be raised to see stars below the floorboards. Only
what they must hold—the weight that must be borne.


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