The Indicator x The Student: “Behind the Walls of a Rotting House”

In this poem originally published in the Fall 2023 edition of The Indicator, Tiia McKinney ’25 examines the complicated histories of a home.

The Indicator x The Student: “Behind the Walls of a Rotting House”
This poem by Tiia McKinney ’25 reflects on the dissolution of a family. Photo courtesy of

I look at the house in the center of the neighborhood,

The first house that ever went there,

The house that my parents struggled to build.

My mother’s eyes often flutter in bitter memory

When she recalls to me that her “blood sweat and tears”

Went into that house

I think of the white walls turned gray,

The two door garage with the dust clouding the window,

The gravel driveway that had little green plants peeking from the cracks

I think of the white flowers that I don’t know the name to

that lined the pathway to the door that my sister and I would pick apart

With ease for fun on breezy summer days.

There’s not a long enough sentence to explain what this house means to me

There’s not a story or a poem that can bring back all of the memories.

And when I almost shed a tear of nostalgia and longing to be back to the

Simple days, I remember that those days weren’t really that simple.

I think of screamed words

I think of slammed doors

I think of when my father left.

I think of all of my disjointed stories of a disjointed family and a family that fell apart

Right behind the walls of that house.

I never heard her tears, but I imagine my mother’s stifled cries

I imagine the days when it was no longer her and my father

Getting me and my sister dressed for school

I imagine two children getting into the car on a driveway,

A now lonely driveway and lonely home full of tears and stress and everything

That my father chose not to stay for.

I think of his privilege to leave this home that

He and my mom built.

I think of my mother who was stuck in a home that she no longer wanted to

Stay in, a home that was a reminder of all of the bad days

And seemed to be a nasty omen for the rest of the future.

While it was messy, it was home. Till it was not.

I think of the yellow notes outside of my house, I think of foreign trucks from

Men in official suits talking to my mother about leaving

The house that she made.

I think of my mother’s stress at having to raise two children on her own,

And perhaps now she would have to raise two children without a house,

On her own.

I imagine the church down the road from my home,

Just on the main road around the corner,

Back then church and the bible was all we had to believe in.

Still with all of this, I balance these bitter memories with the sweet ones

Of my cousins visiting.

Of our bike rides through the grassy yard when I focused hard

Enough for my body to stay balanced on the hard plastic seats.

These memories, the screams and the laughs, the stress and the joy,

The arguments and the prayers,

I imagine all trapped behind the walls in that house.

The walls that struggle to stay up after a few years of wear and tear

And nobody left inside to take care of it.

I pass by the gravel driveway now and see that

The plants that once peeked out of it now grow up

Tall enough to the second story windows

I can’t even see to the door That I once would’ve walked through

After 3pm from school.

The walls are rotting down, but those memories will never rot with them.

I imagine the spirits of a struggling family still trapped behind those walls,

And they will never die.

These memories and spirits still live behind those walls and some

We even carried with us.