The Front Porch
by Christine Adams Beckett
In Appalachia, they showcase
Moldy and holy upholstered couches,
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.