The Front Porch

by Christine Adams Beckett

In Appalachia, they showcase

Moldy and holy upholstered couches,

Dueling banjoes

And Christmas lights in July.  Children

With no shoes or after school

Dance recitals instead spit

Watermelon seeds into cans

Nestled into dirt that once

Sprouted green grass.

 

Now the bare and rotted wood,

dangerously open to the hiding place

Below the planks

Introduces to passers-by

A public representation of the

Private squalor in which the inhabitants live

Behind the rusted screen door.

A shrouded world where

Rodents are the main course

And frustrations give birth

To abuse and neglect

And the start of a generational

Cycle of despair.

 

Further north, in suburbia

The same allegorical bridge:

The threshold, extended,

Includes potted flowers

And wicker and a bridge to

Gap the public and private worlds

In an historical, architectural parable.

Unused, the elaborate presentation is but

A semi-public representation of what lies inside.

The door is opened, only ajar,

Offering an eyeball and a sliver of

A bathrobe, a mumbled no thank you and

A vertical slice of the neatly folded basket of laundry

Lying prostrate at the bottom of the staircase:

The backbone of the Center Hall Colonial,

A vestigial organ of an American Dream.

 

Somewhere, in between,

The door is opened, and coffee is shared

Over which one discusses socially acceptable topics:

Weather, the headlines, home improvement.

Neighbors admire the passing communal children

Tripping by with their pets and jump ropes.

The smell of roasting onions wafts out to

An outsider’s set of nostrils, enticing one to enter

A more private, intimate realm

Where one removes their shoes, revealing

Striped socks, or, provocative bare toes

That are folded every night into the sheets of

A marital bed.

 

A door closes, locks, a private dance ensues

Where fear is left outside to freeze.

The next morning, the inhabitant bids adieu to the

Once-welcomed family member,

Spit out from hearth in the same T-shirt in which

She dined, slept, made the morning coffee.

The guest crosses the threshold

Recycled once again into the public world

Where the face grows more stern

But the eyes still reflect the nourishment

Of a private love.