|View from Julie's grandparents' attic|
The attic in the house where I grew up fascinated me, a treasure trove haunted by the past. My grandmother's sewing machine sat under one of the windows, her cedar chest of old clothing waited back in the eaves, spilling remnants of this woman I had never really known, herself a mountain woman who moved to south Georgia to teach school.
I loved looking out the windows at the yard and tool house grown small and strange, as if images from a storybook. The light that entered that dark repository always seemed to come from far off, to seem intrusive, as if darkness was the attic's natural state.
Julie Brooks Barbour, raised in the foothills of western North Carolina, has captured this ambiance of such an attic in all its mystery. The photos, by the way, are from her grandparents' attic. I can see that attic windows fascinated her as much as they still fascinate me.
My Grandparents’ Attic
The only unfinished area in the house, the air held me close,
pressing in, but I stayed, searching for what my grown cousins
left behind: comic books, wood burning kits, marked pages
of schoolwork, scattered among boxes for safekeeping
or one day’s garbage, the only facts of their childhoods.
They hit puberty before I was born. My father married late
so I rummaged alone, needing to study a cousin’s
handwritten vocabulary words, unfold game boards to trace
the patterns of boredom, turn a geode over in my hands
and stroke its spiny edges. The dark recesses of the attic
peered from a far corner, accessible only by the ability
to balance on plywood boards. Lace curtains hung at the windows,
gray with dust and dotted with dead flies, their cousins still trying
to find a way out at the corners, greeting me each day
with their small swarm. Those windows remained closed
throughout the year, slanted summer sunlight adding to the heat.
The few times she realized where I was headed, my grandmother
begged me not to go up to that room, aware of its appearance,
but I couldn’t stop. I had mysteries to solve: the rusted bed
with its flattened, stained mattress, the tubes of old paints,
stuffed animals boxed and waiting. Who was that room
waiting for? My family told few stories. They related only
childhood antics or what time dinner would be ready.
The old secrets stayed hidden, washed away each time
I cleaned the dust from my hands.
Originally from Shelby, Julie received her MFA in Creative Writing at UNC-Greensboro. Her poems are forthcoming in Kestrel and Migrations: Poetry and Prose for Life's Transitions. She currently lives in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan where she teaches at Lake Superior State University, and is founder and co-editor of the journal border crossing. As a sister alumna of UNC-G, I welcome her to my blog. Her poem carries me back to a place that continues to live in my memory.
|Julie Brooks Barbour|