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April 5, 2022

4 Poems

Claire Christoff

Case Study House No. 23

Killingsworth, Brady, Smith and Associates, 1961
La Jolla

Comfort is out, softness a thing
of shame. They have been supplanted
by a Pacific view, by injurious angles
and strawberry Seconals in the medicine
cabinet. Every sheet of glass, pool-sterile
and flashing, is a voyeur’s license, and
through them, a woman disrobes like
an actress on network television: streaks
of bone, dips of cleavage; all else obscured
by thumbs of monstera on the sill.
The camera’s lens is oblivious to
her breasts, silicone dissolving
to toxin, and the lilac cells growing
darker between her thighs.


Echo Park Community Pool

Here is where the water slows
to a rusty drip, where all the excess
sun collects in a concrete basin.
Where those without backyards,
patios—those who will never
see the sprawl of kidney-shaped
swimming pools, chemical-blue,
from a Pan Am window seat—
sweat in woven beach chairs,
warp and weft digging plaid
into sunburn. Children splash
in their underwear, screaming,
running, but no lifeguard
cares enough to blow a whistle,
or there’s no lifeguard at all.
A Delta 88 idles in the parking
lot. Windows down. Radio up.
Two girls, bikini bottoms
puckered and fading, loiter
beside the chain-link fence,
on the lookout for someone
or something that never comes,
and the freeway rumbles.


Case Study House No. 16B

Craig Ellwood, 1953

What is a federal agent to do when he’s dosed
with acid for seventy-seven days in a row
and given only aspirin on the seventy-eighth?
He is home now, in bed, staring. Outside
the rosettes on the sea holly look like
clustered molars, with bumblebees the size
of birds carrying information from one lobe
to the next. He closes his eyes as if
trying to sense their secrets. In the kitchen
his wife holds two paint chips to the wall.
Bluebird is dusky, surprising, like the underside
of a wing. Artichoke is a warm drab that reminds
her of the army, or the heavy double doors inside
a hospital, and she decides she will use neither.


Case Study House No. 5

Whitney R. Smith, 1946

No entryway, no hallways. No way
to sell this as anything but absence
of logic. The realization of disorder.
Like the brochure says, a plan
can take order only from its own
purpose, but it must have purpose
to begin with. The kitchen is small,
darkened, thick with the sick sugar thirst
of the mentally ill and the erstwhile
drunk’s feral desire for sweetness.
The brochure highlights brick and cork;
floors tiled in perfect asbestos
squares. A store-bought pie cooling
on the sill. No door leading in or out.