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About this Poem 

“‘The Rule of Opulence’ took shape as my grandmother told me of her reluctance to sell her home of more than fifty years due to the escalating costs of upkeep, its advancing age and hers. It struck me as a luxury to have a single place so tied to life and memory, how rich to remain through difficulties, rather than seek perhaps more comfort and modern amenities elsewhere.”
Khadijah Queen

The Rule of Opulence

Bamboo shoots on my grandmother's side path
grow denser every year they’re harvested for nuisance.
Breezes peel blush and white petals from her magnolia,
lacing unruly roots in the spring grass. For nine decades
she has seen every season stretch out of shape, this past
Connecticut winter slow to relinquish cold. As a girl
she herded slow turkeys on her Aunt Nettie’s farm, fifty acres
in a Maryland county that didn’t plumb until midcentury,
plucking chickens and pheasants from pre-dawn
into the late night, scratching dough
for neighbors, relatives stopping by for biscuits, and the view
from my window changes. It's Mother's Day
and I’d always disbelieved permanence—newness a habit,
change an addiction—but the difficulty of staying put
lies not in the discipline of upkeep, as when my uncle
    chainsaws
hurricane-felled birches blocking the down-sloped driveway,
not in the inconvenience of well water
slowing showers and night flushes, not in yellowjackets
colonizing the basement, nuzzling into a hole
so small only a faint buzz announces their invasion
when violin solos on vinyl end, but in the opulence of acres
surrounding a tough house, twice repaired from fires, a kitchen
drawer that hasn’t opened properly in thirty years marked
    Danger,
nothing more permanent than the cracked flagstone
path to the door, the uneven earth shifting invisibly beneath it.

Copyright © 2015 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Khadijah Queen

Khadijah Queen

Khadijah Queen is the author of I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books, 2017).

by this poet

poem

so well it’s like you’re my real
lover, the reason I can’t stay
attached to anyone, making a heaven
out of beginning again & you
knock at my voice
as if I could speak you back in
as mine & I had time enough to learn
the secret of cruelty
as if that made it lose

2
poem
Gear adrift I say—a phrasal anchor in me
& here at the summit no one I know
knows what it means. I stay neat & ask
 
What did I imagine better before work
before that last time breaking
One Tuesday I volunteered & never again
 
The drumbeat softens & I still decline to
admit how cowardly &
2
poem

First, I was twenty-five with no sleep       (                    )

&         my body said    feel this                     And I didn’t

want to     (             ) then       It turned into a constant &        (         )

burned to be felt        I couldn’t harden

away from it