The Poetry Project

Anywhere I Lay My Head/An Archive of Rooms (A Sampler)

Dylan Angell

I am the only one of my siblings who was born in a house.

The landlord lived next door and had previously allowed her six dogs to live in the house by themselves. My parents were permitted to live on the property for free if they helped clean and fix what the dogs had destroyed.

My pregnant mother took to walking the dogs. My father pulled up carpet and removed clawed trim. I was born in the bathtub.

Everytime I have been told this story, I have imagined the dogs howling, harmonizing with my first cry.

When I was four I went with my family to look at a house that we were moving into. A family still lived there—the people who we would soon replace.

The parents had two children who were around my age. The father was getting ready for work, I remember him awkwardly tucking in his shirt as we walked in. The mother was ironing clothes. The kids were getting ready for school.

It felt as if we weren’t meant to be in the house at the same time as them. Like they were the real family and soon we would be taking over their roles, enacting these same scenes.

My family moved into a bigger house when I was a teenager.

The house had an old swimming pool with a rubber liner. I often placed my boombox on the windowsill of my bedroom to funnel music towards the backyard.

I spent my summers contorting my body into the shape of cannonballs and can openers to a soundtrack of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.

I was learning to play the trumpet. At dusk I often attempted a jagged interpretation of Taps as my neighbors sat down for dinner.

During my first week of college I woke to a knock on the door. A woman I had never seen before said—if you know anyone in New York or DC you should call them to see if they are alive.

Planes were crashing into buildings.

Earlier that week I had moved out of my parent’s house and now I was making collect calls on a payphone trying to reach them.

The lines were overwhelmed.

They were just an hour from where I was, far from where the cameras were pointed. Class was cancelled. I laid in the grass.

I didn’t know anyone and I had nowhere to be.

I dropped out of college to hop freight trains with two friends. Our first trek was from North Carolina to New Orleans.

Once we arrived we stayed in a squat that had been abandoned and was left empty. It was an open house for anyone who was passing through.

In the front yard were the remains of a burnt car.

The first floor was completely boarded up. We located a piece of wood and angled it against a window that had been left open on the second floor. We took turns balancing as we walked up the piece of wood with our backpacks and water jugs. We pulled the wood inside once we were in so we could easily use it for getting back down.

Most nights we woke to the sound of someone trying to kick in the front door. We decided to stay still so as to not make a sound.

They never made it in.

Work from Memory Palaces: Visions, Echoes, Forms with Lucy Ives