September 2023

Back to Issue 14

The House on Stilts

By Heather Taylor-Johnson


It isn’t the beginning but start with this morning: finally sun

and the windows of this future-home / sometimes-home /

our home-away-from-home home are curtainless, so I wake 

in bright familiarity, the bed holding me, a book (inevitably) 

          my dog old and sleeping-in.  


Sometimes I come here with only my dog, the humans in my shuffling 

life carrying on in our factual-home, which is to say our routine-home – 

the one where all the mail is sent. I sit and read and write and eat 

(I’m doing all four now) because simplicity’s found in basic 

repetition, and then there’s privilege and together they’re the lake, 

presently a reflection of mauve clouds heaving stillness. 


If I move backwards to yesterday we are still not at the beginning 

but where would that be? When I looked down at your face 

and said we were a team? Birth is spectacular and something we own. 


Yesterday, in our usual-home – the television’s noise, my shadow 

holding a wine glass like a sacred bowl, my scorched eyes – 

it hurt when I realised our relationship, the one I held a portion of myself 

up to, is gone. No, changed (I almost made an enormous mistake). 

          Nothing can ever go away, can it? 


It’s sunset now and I’m frightened at our fading 

but who knows, my hefty love, our prospect might presume 

a misdirected consuming passion, which is something big 

not diminishing (perhaps I should end that with a question mark 

          to elevate mystery and hope?). 


I am aware that without my dog I might’ve ignored the path that hugs 

the cliffs of the lake (that most people call a river – whatever, it’s a large 

body of freshwater somewhere in between and it’s personal to me) 

and I might’ve kept sitting and reading, and he doesn’t need a lead here, 

pure dog, open space, nothing commercial only lots of houses 

where no one lives, they’re not even rented out, they’re holiday homes 

in a sleepy town and I get the phrase: homes that have less dramatic 

conditions than the homes we routinely inhabit – and I love you. 


We amble, my dog and me. At 13 he trots with his tongue hanging low, 

his muzzle and underbelly completely white while I’m 47 and breathe 

full-chested on the rise, my body reaching towards down and out. 

Life comes with its pivotal moments that separate the lengthening 

days and yesterday was one of them, today another, though brighter. 


I don’t know how to claim space nor how to let you go 

(I think they both mean grieving). Still, pelicans keep fishing 

for their lunch, family cars ferry speed boats to the ramp, 

my dog sniffs at then pisses on every clump of green he can, 

so the days stay the same. Go then, grow then. Our story is an old 

tide calling for new strokes. We’re no more than a house on stilts 

with plenty of scope for DIYs and years and years of pottering.