List Previous Addresses Below
The third-floor apartment across from a butcher,
where my parents took turns holding me
as they sat in their new red velvet living room chair;
then the big tenement, my Uncle Will and Aunt Pearl
and Grammy downstairs; then the yellow single family rental
where a boy had hung himself before we moved in,
his initials—LS—carved into the banister;
then the maroon ranch my parents bought
for which my sister and I were allowed to pick wallpaper
for our bedroom—big mod purple flowers.
After that were the dorm rooms, the ones I shared
with roommates who sang into their hairbrush-microphones,
and the single I finally scored in a university lottery.
I hung a giant green and yellow Del Monte canned corn poster—
an homage to my days of working in the supermarket,
from where I stole it, and my budding love of Andy Warhol,
how I thought I took his project one step further,
the packaging itself art—no need to even silkscreen.
Then my apartment in Boston with three Asian college students,
their slippers by the door, our chore board in the kitchen.
My cousin gave me her twin mattress and box spring
and my father tied them with rope to the top of his car.
My roommates and I all shared a phone line—our sighs
and gripes when someone talked too long. We did aerobics
in our living room that faced the street, the fittest
roommate making us sweat to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Then the house in Cranston with the friend I’d met in college
and her friend with the little boy she neglected.
I worked at a novelty store over the bridge
selling kitsch to students just a year younger than I,
the crazy rubber bracelets I wore by the dozen.
I would bring the boy Pez dispensers I bought with my discount.
But enough of that. Next I was off to grad school, first in Tuscon
to the cinderblock studio in crumbling neighborhood,
the Take Back the Night rallies, so many rapes,
so few streetlights since there was a famous observatory
and the stars came first. I learned to carry mace
and make iced tea brewed in the sun. Then to New York
and the Lower East Side into apartments right out of Junkie
with hissing radiators and air shaft views. Two apartments—
with two different roommates—a suicide and a nervous breakdown,
my unlucky twenties with robberies and a family
of mice born in my sock draw. Then came relief
when my friend in Westchester let me housesit one summer
and I would take the Metro North into the city
with scrubbed business people with briefcases. More relief
when an angel poet let me stay in her place on West 110th Street
after the murder next door to my apartment on East 5th.
Then to the much better studio on West 23rd
that faced the Chelsea Hotel—Leona Helmsley, my landlord
in the news for not paying her taxes, and doormen
that you had to tip at Christmas so they would come help
if a pipe broke or a rat had nested in your boot.
I had a party there once and used my ironing board as a bar.
Then the faculty house provided by my first teaching gig
in Pennsylvania, with its two stories and its brown plaid furniture.
Then onto another apartment, this one by the railroad tracks
with the stained curry cabinets and yellowing curtains.
Then another move to another town in Pennsylvania,
this apartment with its own washer and dryer, where my husband
and I fought so badly (yes, I was married three addresses ago)
that I hurled a lawn chair at the door when he locked me out.
Then back to New York City to Mulberry Street
where the previous tenant had painted the walls navy blue and black
so that when we arrived with a moving van full of our stuff
the painters were still painting it back to white—
it took a lot of coats—where my loft bed was stuffed in one room
with a desk underneath and we slept on a pullout couch,
where the toilet was in a room the size of a stall, the tub and sink
in another tiny room on the other end of the floor plan,
where the fire escape became our porch so we decorated it
with a plant. Then to Astoria because, as a friend told me,
if you look in a borough, you’ll move to a borough.
Suddenly all that extra space and the rotting kitchen floor
we rehabilitated ourselves with black and white stick-on tiles.
My parents were getting new furniture so they gave me
the red chair and I hauled it from Rhode Island
to New York in the backseat of a rental car
then hauled it up the apartment stairs. The velvet
was faded and worn, but I thought of the chair
as an antique, and I took comfort sitting in it
and reading. Just when I thought
I’d live in Queens forever, the job in Florida
and the apartment on South Beach with a view of the pool
and the ocean and the large windows that shimmied
in each tropical storm. And then my very first home purchase—
a condo with white walls and shiny tiles that I thought that would be
my address until I died, but then the divorce and the move
to a smaller condo with a bright red coffee maker
and granite countertops and my office in the closet. I rent
a storage unit where I keep that red velvet chair
and other memories too enormous for the space provided here.