Horsehair Plaster by Nathaniel K. Miller

January 16, 2014 Comments Off on Horsehair Plaster by Nathaniel K. Miller

The wind-born whispers of trees beat soft corners into the house. We left it standing, hoping it might do the same for us. Houses do not shrink from the terrible task — pulling lives into the firmament. Old walls, well made, do not hesitate to revenge.

Over there, someone took a picture of this place when it was nothing but land and plans. The hat plastered to his sweaty brow as he layered horsehair with rank glue in slick applications, each a promise —

“They shall not enter,

You shall not leave.”

You can almost see him hold back a heave. The smell of the walls as they are birthed is wet and sour, and he barely refrains from retching.

Under strain from snow and sun, we heaved, too, through the echoes of the silences he made. Scraped knees and other damage done under the cool breath of the oaks was pulled into a deeper pain, a civilizing pain, by that cool darkness, the enclosure of attics, hallways.

To be hemmed in by doors, to be tripped into sleeplessness by jambs and pulled nails, to be brought low by a seething, ancient comfort, a price paid and paid again for not needing to wander through the endless whispers of oaks, reeds, and well-meaning moss. To be anesthetized under eaves, atop flagstones, beneath keystones and bedposts and woolen sheets until still.

To be just so slightly aware:

The pain of no trees in the sweat of your body, the burning itch of life between walls stuck to your skin in the thick summer night.

Our dreams scraped over that matte plaster on their way up the chimney, to be carried sunward by the echoing oaks, their idle lack of malice the only hope we saved.

But somewhere along the line, after the picture was taken, he did retch, the hat slipped down his sun-soaked face, the hair bonded to the hair and became walls. The walls, somewhere along the line, were raised, and we were not, but we grew up anyway, and somehow — somewhere along the line — we left, though we never found a far enough place, a place so free of structure or so full of well-meaning moss that the pain was not there, deep in our bones.

© 2013 Nathaniel K. Miller

Nathaniel K. Miller cannot easily tell what is living and what has never lived. He co-edits Pravic

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