Rumbling beneath many of Lydia Davis’s stories is an implicitly female defiance, and her genius lies in the power to tease out the violent impulses that nest so comfortably in the structures of daily life—in our routines and glancing exchanges, our behaviors and patterns of thought.
Public housing, what many know as “the projects,” has long been the centerpiece of the nation’s effort to provide affordable homes for very low–income families. At the program’s height, there were more than 1.3 million units of federally funded public housing. More than a quarter of a million units have been demolished in the past twenty-five years. Though initially designed for the working poor and operated with minimum income requirements, in the 1960s public housing became the option of last resort for the elderly, disabled, and the poorest.
How could you possibly possibly not
from this high metal field all dealt
across colossal metaphysical tables
clatter and drop into pockets of the sea?
I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother
and argue what a kobold is, and is not. I am nine.
Behind the oblong dresser in the basement
is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider
crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.
When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.
The gas attendant has a gold tooth.
Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.
I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.
A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.
I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.
No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car
across the ice, no witnesses.
Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally
across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me
he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters
across stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,
gulp milk from a glass bottle.
There is nothing left for me to do.
My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:
a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.
See, he is not here to dispute this.
This is what I think when the lover asks why I am
so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.
My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.
I miss everything.