11 April 2010

House of the Broken Heart

It is quiet out there, mostly, the silence broken by animal sounds and the occasional scream of anguish. It could be said that the screams were also animal sounds, if Homo sapiens were classified as an animal. The screams originating, from the throat of a two-legged being, scratching at the floor.

There is a dirt and gravel track branching away from the narrow paved road snaking its way over and through the folds of the mountainside. The trees and undergrowth crowd in on it, all the while threatening to take over. They hover over the track like jealous lovers or hungry jackals, seeking to protect that from which they feed. Driving past the track, it is easy to miss. It does not seek to advertise itself. The number of people who need to find it totals…one. That person isn’t the same person every time the track is found, either.

Perhaps the track only reveals itself to those really in need.

It matters little the vehicle of choice to traverse the terrain. No matter the weather, the dry or the wet, mud or dust, snow or rain: the wheels will find purchase. The track facilitates the traveler in the inexorability of this journey to the house waiting at the end of the road. The mud may seem deep, the drop-offs terribly steep, but they really are not. The light in the valley has a way of tricking the eye and magnifying the feelings of the traveler.

The task is to persevere, until the vehicle comes to a halt in the gravel driveway fronting the house. And it will. The journey is inevitable.

No matter what time the trip began, it always seems to end at twilight. There is just enough light to get a quick impression of the house, but it doesn’t last long enough to thoroughly study it before entering. The outlines are blurred anyway, due to the encroachment of trees and vines, and a curious lack of color. The primary feature, though, is that the house straddles a ravine that angles through the site. It is the first thing that grabs the eye, and almost makes it seem as if there are two houses perched on the slopes. Stepping out of the vehicle, the ear is greeted by the low murmur of rushing water. It is possible there is a stream at the bottom of the ravine. Low light and the tricky acoustics of the forest make it difficult to tell.

If it can be said that the house has a front door, it is approached by a short bridge leading away from the packed gravel driveway. The bridge crosses what looks like a shallow moat filled with the jagged bodies of rocks, grey and bluish-white, most about the size of Jack Russell terriers. The bridge deck is thick timbers on a framework of black-painted steel, all of it patinaed with moss and the slow corruptions of rust. The railings are also of metal and wood, a weathered grid of steel with thick round handrails smooth and shiny from the passage of myriad hands. The deck trembles and groans as the visitor crosses the bridge.

The door is weathered wood, bound with iron. The metal has stained the wood with fat streaks of ferric tears. To be expected, from so many years of exposure to the weather. There is an ancient lock mortised into the door panel, but it is rarely used. It is easy to forget to lock the door when wrapped in so much anguish.

Push the door open on hinges surprisingly quiet; there is only a faint rasp of metal on metal. If there is one thing that has not been neglected in this house of coagulated ruin, it is hinges. It does not make sense if the doors can't be opened at will, and sometimes it is best to enter with as little noise as can be managed. Step inside, into a damp, cool space smelling of wet stone and heartache.

It is a long narrow hall, terminating in a jagged window. A slit, really, in the far wall. The floor is of metal grating, narrow spaced, and between the bars can be glimpsed (if the time of the day is right) wet stone, ferns, the glistening rush of a stream at the bottom of the ravine. A skylight, pearly in its glow, parallels the hall. The sky is seen dimly through its frosted panes. Upon closer inspection, it can be observed that the walls have a delicate framework of steel bars stretching from below the hall grating all the way up to the skylight. As the eyes adjust to the low light, one can see the faint, green wisps of a vines growing up through the floor to reach toward the light above.

The walls are of stone, slightly rough. The color is that peculiar gray to be seen in certain kinds of slate. Oily in one view, wet in another. There are copper sconces at intervals down the hall, faintly green and emitting a surprisingly warm glow. At the midpoints of the hall, the sconces flank two doors, opposing each other. The doors are of bronze, and are closed. The hall widens at that point, just a bit. Just enough for two people to stand facing one another, and have someone pass between them.

Pick a door to open. It probably matters not which is chosen; there is a feeling in the air that whatever is behind the doors will be nearly identical. The door swings into a room of modest size, facing a wall without windows except for a small square opening opposite the door. The opening is filled with thick, solid glass blocks. the light coming through is greenish and distorted. To the right is a wall, plaster, seamless except for an arched opening leading to a small room that appears to be a kitchen. To the left, there is another wall, pierced with three large windows divided by thick mullions between them. The windows are framed with steel,  divided into lites, like those in an old mill building, and the paint is beginning to flake away. The glass is intact, slightly rippled. The light spilling through the window reveals a small, iron framed bed and a worn wooden table against the wall. The floors are of thick wood planks, scraped and burnished by countless soles.

The bed linens are rumpled and in disarray. On the table is a stoneware pitcher standing next to what appears to be a leather-bound journal, an ink bottle and two fountain pens. Slightly back from the table is a mahogany ladderback chair. The wood is worn and polished to a sheen, not from cloth but from the comings and goings of the occupants. Despite the chill, it invites one to sit, as many have, and many will.

Visitors will find themselves sitting at the table, thumbing the pages and fidgeting with the pens, all the while not understanding how they came to be there. They will be filled with the urge to write, in that peculiar shade of blue-black (if one is on the east side of the hall) or brown-black (if one is on the west side of the hall) ink that inhabits the bottle on the table. They will find themselves writing, perhaps, or with head in hands over the table while teardrops trickle down to add to the circular stains in the dust. The browned pages of the journal are pocked with such stains, which sometimes dissolve the words into novae of ink.  They will sit, and write, and grieve outside of time. Out in the hall, the slow swellings of green life enrobe the the trellises, in time with the beatings of the sore hearts.

It will not matter how long they stay. The kitchen always have just enough to eat, no more and no less. The house takes care of its own, no matter what. Visitors are never invited here, but are always welcome to stay as long as it takes.

The visitors come, their stays governed by the dictates of the soul. The green things grow, the stream rushes on and time has no meaning here in the House of the Broken Heart.


  1. Achingly beautiful.
    Do me a favor and please don't ever shut up :)


  2. I have been thinking of you lately...

    My poetry is really growing as your writing has...sometimes we have to dig deep to re-write what we did not say, a place we have to go and share in other forms...

    Okay I am only up because I am a horrible insomniac who writes better in the deep space quiet...

  3. Sounds like a house next to the Hotel California.

  4. I have been to this house. More than a time or ten.

  5. I don't want to dwell there although I have spent a night or two during my life in that house.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. A wonderful piece of writing.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...