He Looks for Messages in the Linoleum Pattern

by Martha Clarkson

Underneath the kitchen is crawlspace, the house’s secret air.
Before the daughter disappeared, there was a cinnamon smell to the kitchen.

A prop can be as simple as a cloud made from cotton.
A prop can be a blue crayon, labeled “cornflower.”

He draws the sky as if it has an edge and is on the ground.
“But it’s the sky!” she says. “Sky, you know, up?”

A prop can be as simple as a can opener, spread-eagle on the counter.
A prop can be the weather.

She lifts her apron skirt into a cradle, waiting.
There is a noodle pie in the freezer.

A prop can be as simple as an old fork, stolen from a school kitchen.
A prop can be a dead light bulb you rattle on your head.

“Where’s the daylight?” he says. The hard kitchen walls bounce his words.
He pulls up the cord of the Roman shade, in case.

A prop can be as simple as the way his mother pulled a drape in summer.
A prop can be an unfilled ice tray.

Washing cherries, three bounce off the sink’s edge and into the disposal’s cave.
He reaches in to chase them, anxious fingers.

She unties her apron, takes his hand. “It’s time,” she says, leading him away.
All that mesmerizes, she seeks to rinse clean.

A prop can be as simple as a header that holds up a particular doorway,
that is not a prop at all.

Martha Clarkson is a designer, photographer, and writer receiving mail in Kirkland, Wa. She is locatable at http://www.marthaclarkson.com.

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