When I first read House of Dust by Alison Knowles and James Tenney, I was transported, likely due to the repetition of the word “house”, to my childhood home. That home, with the hot pink stripe I painted and the Beatles collages on my bedroom wall, the scrubbed wooden table sitting on beige linoleum, and wall-to-wall carpeting doesn’t exist anymore. In its place is a house my mom lives in and has obsessively renovated in her retirement.
I used the framework from House of Dust to attempt to recreate what I see, smell, and hear in my mind’s eye. Food was an integral part of my family’s culture and my mom cooked mostly retro, ’50s housewife recipes mixed with ’90s microwaved instant meals: boxes of wild rice, frozen vegetables, canned gravy. In contrast to the original piece, which felt elegant and lofty and conjured vivid scents of nature and and fresh air, my version smelled like the weeknight meals my mom prepared after her job as a high school principal. It sounds like my mom’s Philly/Delaware accent: “hooooome, hoooooagies, phooowwwne, it’s owwver ‘dere”.
The original poem belongs in a handsomely-bound leather book that fits comfortably in your hands. Mine belongs on one of those middle school English class poetry assignments, handwritten with Pentel markers on construction paper, saved in big plastic tubs that sit in the crawlspace of my dad’s townhouse.