The Family Room

The Family Room


The builder’s mate smashed our young fig tree flat.
He called from his car window—I’ve killed your tree.

In the uninflected voice of someone who has sat
all night in the children’s ward and driven to work.

He wielded power tools and climbed ladders like
a somnambulist, who is bulletproof. Building our

family room. The day they were digging footings,
long graves, the vet put our ancient goat to sleep.

There’s just too much death about—I said. Spade
in hand. Then the rosella tangled with the window

where a window had never been—broke her neck.
The room was built, the men paid off. We moved in.


His father knocked and entered like a force of nature.
The frail boy with the chemo haircut followed him.

It won’t be long, it’s soon, be kind to him—
said his goodbye eyes.—So this is the room.

Our empty dinner plates. Our children stared.
The wood fire and the news winding up on telly

flickering about the cedar walls in equal measure
and the high air above it all in the vaulted ceiling

as cool and remote as a daily report whispered
across the receding desert of white bedspread.

Jennifer Compton

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