I drove for hours, listening to oldies on the radio. Six lane highways shrunk to two. My speed decreased for maybe three minutes at a time, as highway turned into Main Street in rural towns.

I found the cemetery first. Scuffed through fallen leaves until I found their headstones. My eyes blurred reading the dates. All just one year apart.

Back in the car, two miles down the road, left at the fork. I found the house. Shingles half gone; flaking paint and boarded up windows. Mama’s rusted clothesline poles still there. The stones we lugged and stacked to separate mama’s garden from our play yard were half-gone. I peered over what was left, imagining Gina swinging and laughing. But there is nothing behind the wall except a space where the wind whistles.

You can never go back. They warned me. But I didn’t listen.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets where today Merril is hosting Prosery Monday.

Prosery? We’re given a line from a poem, and we must use it exactly as it is worded (punctuation may be changed) within a piece of fiction that is exactly 144 words in length. It is similar to flash fiction except it must include a specific given poetic line. The line we must use is “There is nothing behind the wall except a space where the wind whistles.” It is from Liesel Mueller’s poem Drawings by Children. Photo from

20 thoughts on “Homestead

  1. msjadeli November 9, 2020 / 3:50 pm

    Headstones “all just one year apart” sounds so ominous. I wonder what she was hoping to find? Good mystery!


  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) November 9, 2020 / 3:52 pm

    I love the story you didn’t tell of what happened between childhood and the effort to go back… it sounds like the narrator has burnt some bridges in the past.


  3. kim881 November 9, 2020 / 4:09 pm

    I like the way you created atmosphere in this piece, Lil, and hinted at things, for example in the short sentence: ‘All just one year apart.’ Now I want to know what happened. I love the description of the house, with flaking paint, boarded up windows and Mama’s rusted clothesline poles. How long has the house been empty and why?


  4. Glenn A. Buttkus November 9, 2020 / 4:32 pm

    Wow, our minds sprinted down similar paths; our poems make good book ends. I like that you included mystery and movement beyond just the old house.


  5. Beverly Crawford November 9, 2020 / 5:18 pm

    This is beautifully poignant. I had a similar visit back to my past, only to find my little one-room school was long gone, the little roadside church and even the high school I’d attended, all gone. The little house was still standing and inhabited, but had fallen into disrepair. Mother’s garden was turned into lawn, the clotheslines and grape arbor were gone. The little barn had only vestiges of its once-proud red paint. It’s true, you can’t go back….and sometimes it’s best if you don’t try.


  6. Lucy November 9, 2020 / 5:41 pm

    There is so much to wonder here and the circumstances described are essentially ominous. I am still thinking (or knowing me, overthinking) the final line. It could be the start of a great sci-fi thriller, or maybe psychological horror delving into someone’s past reality or from within their memories. I loved this story from start to finish, it is very sad but with an intriguing aura that leaves me wanting to know more.


  7. -Eugenia November 9, 2020 / 6:22 pm

    Compelling! I love the intrigue!


  8. sanaarizvi November 9, 2020 / 7:08 pm

    This is incredibly dark, eerie and atmospheric, Lillian! 💝 I love the mystery you weave by leaving out just enough details to urge the reader to ponder as to what transpired especially; “The stones we lugged and stacked to separate mama’s garden from our play yard were half-gone. I peered over what was left, imagining Gina swinging and laughing.” I can picture the girl and wonder if ghosts of the past were there as she explored the remnants. 💝


  9. robtkistner November 9, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    Yes Lillian, the past remains forever the past — but that is what makes the memories so precious. This engaged me from the beginning. Excellent!


  10. Ron. November 9, 2020 / 7:29 pm

    Very engaging indeed, Lillian; esp so since I was just looking at some old (O.L.D.!!!) photos of childhood home. Thanks.


  11. poetrybydebi November 9, 2020 / 7:46 pm

    So many questions left unanswered but you are right about not being able to go home again.


  12. Dora November 9, 2020 / 9:07 pm

    You capture the sadness and nostalgia perfectly. The past can only always be a memory.


  13. M Jay Dixit November 9, 2020 / 10:44 pm

    The attention to details is thought-provoking. Really sad and compelling.


  14. Ingrid November 10, 2020 / 12:41 am

    Oh, this is heart-achingly sad! All those memories probably survive better in the mind than in a battered, run down building. Sometimes my Grandma said she was glad she never went home after the age of 19 as it would have changed so much she wouldn’t recognise it.


  15. Jane Dougherty November 10, 2020 / 8:34 am

    Going back is always a disappointment. We had the same thoughts.


  16. Misky November 10, 2020 / 10:15 am

    So true. So true. Lovely post.


  17. Tricia Sankey November 10, 2020 / 11:31 am

    This flash piece captures little details that spur the reader on to see what will happen next. In the end we see the contrast of how things remain in our minds and the reality of the present. An emotional ride!


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