The House—Christel Thompson

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I don’t remember when 
I first woke here anymore. 
Or perhaps it’s not that I don’t remember, 
but rather that I simply don’t know— 
when this started, where I am. 

{You’re nine and in bed, shaking 
from the stomach flu. 

No. This is your college apartment, mid-February, 
and your pipes have frozen. 

Quiet, don’t speak so loudly. Don’t you remember 
that you’re subletting a room in a third-story walk-up 
and the downstairs neighbours are both night-shift nurses? 

This is your family’s home. You are your mother’s child.} 

Some things I do know— 
I brush my teeth and wash my hands. 
I scrub at dishes that I don’t recall dirtying, 
answer the ringing phone to silence. 
I sit in gem-green water and my eyelid twitches, gnaw 
at my lips until they raw. I listen 
to whispered urgings that are not my own; 

cold iron shavings 
{collected only from the rusted kitchen knife} 
rosewood splinters 
{buried in my fingertips} 
{burned, thick, every 21 days} 

and turn them ritual.
Somehow, I think the house is breathing. 
The corridors inhale, hold onto their 
sighs— the rooms get bigger, bloat. 
They warp at the edges. 
I used to see people 
at the ends of those distant halls: a nurse 

{with straw for eyes} 

who smiled and shook 
my pill-bottle, a baby’s rattle— 

{have you taken your medicine yet, pup?} 

a blind child who hummed The Itsy Bitsy Spider, 
the cobweb-shrouded figure of something 
that never moved until I blinked it away, 

{but it has been so long.} 

The walls seem to know me now. 
Sometimes, a woman peels herself out of them 
and stands over me in the night. She croons —a boneless song— 
until I crawl to her, supplicant. Until I stand and tuck my head into her 
shoulder, melting into a body that smells like my own. 

I can taste iron in the air, rust 
and summer salt. The floorboards mutter 
as I pace them, heel-toe heel-toe. 
There is a drip in all of the sinks; 
and just before dawn, 
their steady tip-tip-tip’s begin to chorus, 

{you were human once, 
you were human once.} 

Something alive runs through the faucets. 
I open my mouth and suckle; 
let it feed me, wrap me up in a womb of rest. 
In the half-moments between dreaming and waking, 
                        I breathe my thanks: 

{the house provides, 
the house provides.}

Christel Thompson is a prose writer and poet, with a keen interest in dissecting themes like isolation, yearning, and what it means to be seen. Her work has appeared in giallo lit, pier:to cultural collective, and 433 magazine. Outside of her literary endeavors, she is a portrait photographer and avid Neon Genesis Evangelion fan. You can find her work/contact at

photo by Vladimir Konoplev and Piyapong Sayduang (via pexels)