Hugo House

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I know that it’s just a building, and that Hugo House lives on—thriving—and will return in a new building. But my history with the house goes back to when it was New City Theater, and I was trying to be a modern dance choreographer, and then the years of taking classes, teaching a few, readings and readings and readings—plus finding a publisher at an event called Finding Your Publisher. Last week when my daughter sent me a photo of the demolition, that part of the transition hit me in the gut.

Audience of Ghosts

When the house comes down,
the rooms of my body hurt—
empty air, all my years
in the second story now a legend
with no map, histories nesting
in my body like timbers splintered.

Shoulder to stranger we wrote
on the plaster, pen after pen
one kind of good-bye. There
is the hand I forgot to pack,
the words I forgot to look up,
buried the heart’s four classrooms,

steaming between my ribs the kitchen
when it was a dressing room,
the theater where I danced,
the cabaret table where I listened,
with red wine, the stage
where the sign said eat the mike.

When the house comes down,
only the shadows of rooms—
and our writing on the walls,
words into dust, debris
of the house come down
in the push and shovel, bucketful,

bucketful. Later, you send me a photo,
remains behind a cyclone fence.
I think of the house as a funeral
parlor, its older incarnation.
You tell me it was beautiful
seeing all our words tumbling.

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WP_20160507_003 (322x500)Last night, my daughter and I headed over to Hugo House. The building isn’t closing just yet, and the house as a creative community will live on in a temporary location, but this was the official celebration good-bye gathering.

We wrote on the walls, we read what others wrote. We watched David Lasky drawing. I added exclamation points underneath the Viva ZAPP that someone else had scrawled. I wrote in the Winslow room, where I had taken many classes and taught a couple, where I found a publisher at an event called “Finding Your Publisher in the 21st Century.”

I stood in the theater where I had performed my own choreography when the house was New City Theater. I couldn’t get into the kitchen, which had been the dressing room in those days.

I saw some friends and missed many others. Walking through the narrow and very crowded hallways, leaning on the railing down the steep stairs, I came close to crying.

I’m not a good picture taker, but I wanted at least one of the house, and my daughter insisted that I should be in it. Thank you, old house with your ghosts, for being my creative home for so many years. The end of one era means the beginning of the next, and I’m grateful that the heart of Hugo House—its students, its teachers, its community—will keep beating.

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