University of Minnesota
minnesota writing project
center for writing

Minnesota Writing Project.Center for Writing's home page.

Erin Whitcraft


For Brianreading

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” ― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker



In the Beginning

You left a message on my
             parents’ voicemail
and rang their doorbell.
Effusive voices met you
while I
           mustered energy
           to brush my hair
           smooth my t-shirt.

But when I saw you,
all I could think was that I better go find lipstick.

It wasn’t even a date.

We were in
           Coon Rapids.
You took me
to a
           chain restaurant
There were
           ten other people
you called.
           Probably before me.


But you danced like
James Brown
in your slippery soled,        
rented bowling shoes.

And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

And I knew.



We knew each other from home:
           a church
           a suburb
           a high school
           a pool.

But we reconnected later --
dorms, condemned housing, apartments.
An ocean for me and a cabin for you.
A shoebox of a fifth-floor walk-up; middle-school-aged housemates --
in between.

What happens when you run away from home?
What happens when home comes to find you?

We fled home in the middle of a country to make homes right on the edge of it.
We camped at the end of the pier.

But home is comfort.
Could we have left home and grown the same direction?
Could we build a new home amidst the remnants of the old?

We didn’t ask those questions then.

Do you think -- ?
Where -- ?
When -- ?

Our questions needed no endings.

And there we were.
A new home.
Just us.
           (and the foot-stomping, guitar-strumming, booze-fueled upstairs neighbors)
Morning walks
Latenight gigs
Happy hour beers wings new love were all we needed.
Blurs of lights cabs missed trains
Drunken love on the platforms uptown midtown downtown.
Everything was shiny and new even when it was worn and rank -
A riot of color and noise swirling around us.




Sometimes I lose myself
in the poetry of scrubbing.
Especially when I’m pissed off.
The sink sparkles from the
frenzy of baking soda and vinegar.
The faucet gleams. The counters are
naked of the week’s mail and the dishes
that have been drying for days.

But mostly our house looks “lived in.”

My favorite housecleaning
involves you, me, and a bottle of tequila.

How much can we accomplish in ten minutes?
Divide and conquer or a united front?
Shuffle piles of books from table to nightstand to shelves.
Toss towels onto the mountain until the inevitable avalanche.

- The timer interrupts -

Cheers! Shots!
The challenge for another round revived.
Re-set the timer.

The only frenzy in this cleaning is when one tackles
the other onto the couch in giggles and limbs and half-hearted protests.

No wonder our space is lived in -



You’ve surrounded me
with scaffolding and assessed
           - gently, carefully, almost afraid -
where the cracks are.

You know some of them well;
                       You put them there.
Others born from uneven pressures:
age, moves, a child, a home, families.

You lay out the tools deliberately.
There is quiet surety; there is a plan.
Some fissures will be quick fixes.
           A stranger will never know they were there.
We, too, will forget.

Others, though, you aren’t sure how deep they run.
You choose the fine grit sandpaper to gingerly remove the outer layers.
You hesitate.
Maybe the answer is the sledgehammer.

Confidence, my dear,
I’m stronger than you think.
Or more fragile than I know.
And you, darling?
The same or opposite?

After ten years, a dozen, half a lifetime of knowing.
How many hidden staircases are left for me to find?
How many times have I knocked loose your foundation?


In the End (Inspired by Christina Rosetti’s “When I Am Dead, my Dearest”)

When I am dead, my dearest,
Don’t forget to make the bed;
And load the dishwasher from time to time to time.
Watch that video on how to French braid hair,
so she can look like Elsa.

Let it go, let it go.

Alternate your breakfast of flax smoothies with cold pizza;
learn to make a flaky pie crust.
Teach her to be a city girl -
to ride the train, to be bold in her yeses and nos.
And that fear of losing her, of losing her too

Let it go, let it go.

Love and be loved, beloved.
Write more songs;
skip the 4/4.
And if you will, remember,
And if you will, forget.