Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Attic Room


The Attic Room

Carolyn Zonailo

I have returned
home, to the attic
I knew as a child.
Up steep stairs
to sloped walls—
in the front room
my older brother,
the back room mine.
My brother has tadpoles
in a glass bowl.
I drop a metal hairpin
into the water and the tadpoles—
their fins becoming feet—
die, sink to the bottom
of the glass container.
One night my brother
enters my attic room,
presses his body
next to mine.
He returns again
a second night,
stands naked in moonlight,
his erect penis
extending out from his body.
Not forcing himself
on me but needing
to share this discovery,
just before puberty
wrapped him in shyness.
That Christmas he gave me
a blouse he picked out,
patterned red and black,
my favorite colors.
He put Brylcreem
on his hair
and called it
a ducktail;
he painted decoys
for bird hunting;
taught me
to tie fishing flies
while we listened to Elvis
sing you ain't nothing
but a hound dog …

One time he held
my teddy bear
over the incinerator,
singeing the fur
just to torment me.
In revenge, I broke
the tiny plastic areoplanes
from the deck
of his model aircraft carrier.
We kept each other's secrets,
growing up together
in side-by-side rooms,
where the roof sloped in
and my four-poster bed
matched the mahogany
chest of drawers
and mirror with carved frame.
On the mirror I placed decals
of bluejays and robins,
the kind you dip in water
then peel off,
frail and transparent.
This room above
the rest of the house
was meant for dreaming in;
my own private sanctuary,
the first room I remember
from childhood;
before we moved
away from Ontario Street
and I was given a room
on the main floor.
By then, I was eleven
and my mother would complain
about the mess in my room,
no longer an alcove
in the attic visited only in darkness,
keeping sacred all
the secrets of the night
and the child's dreaming soul.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 67, No. 4, Canadian Women Writers (Winter 1993), pp. 123-125


Author Photo of Carolyn Zonailo

Carolyn Zonailo is a Canadian poet with an interest in mythology, archetypal studies, and Jungian psychology. Of her many poetry collections are Nature’s Grace, Wading the Trout River, and The Goddess in the Garden; the latter was a finalist for the A.M. Klein Poetry Award.