Patricia Casper’s poem, “Piece by Piece,” appears in our Spring 2012 issue, guest edited by Nick Flynn. “Piece by Piece” opens with these lines:
When the road was not a road but a flooded mouth of broken teeth
husband and wife parked at the spring-swollen dam.
Above a chorus of peepers they bickered the radio news
unloading their haul: soft pine, tongue, groove.
Here, Patricia Caspers describes the inspiration for “Piece by Piece”:
I live with my family in what was formerly a cabin on a lake in the woods. Often while sitting at my desk I turn away from the computer screen in search of the right combination of words and stare at the knotty pine walls that surround me. At times the knots seem to stare back, scornfully. They mock me.
My husband, Rick, and I bought this house from his parents, and I often remember my mother-in-law’s story of how much trouble it was to haul in the pine paneling while the road to the house was impassable.
Rick and I plan to renovate the house, but the knowledge of how hard my in-laws worked to build what’s here makes it difficult. If we had bought the house from strangers this process probably wouldn’t carry the weight of guilt that it does.
As I considered this idea, I began to think of all of the ways we tear down what our elders have created, sometimes for better, sometimes not. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the destruction in which we’re engaged. In the end we take what we’ve revisioned or revitalized, whether it’s a house, literature, or social constructs, and we call it our own; we call it new, but there’s no such thing as new, really. We are always indebted to the successes and failures of those who came before us.
One day the knotty pine will come down or we’ll cover it over with sheet rock and paint, and the house will finally feel like our home, but the foundation will remain unchanged.