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"You give and give and give, and so take all I have."
Paul Kelly, Generous Lover

My Father’s Father’s House [link expired]

My Father’s Father’s House (writer Terry Callahan, designer Jamie Kane) uses frames and simple diagrammatic plans to navigate a couple’s relationship breakdown and the negotiation, renovation, of space and desire. The house on the street. What the neighbours see. The cars that cruise by on Sunday morning. Click on the picket fence to delve deeper into the black and white sketch. What’s going on inside; isolation on a busy road. As we enter the gate, we cross the border between public and private space. A house, made up of squares, built with his father’s father’s hands, a house where his wife crosses boundaries many times.

A couple with no children, resigned bitterness like dust in the air. As we click on hallway, verandah, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, the house itself becomes a character; occupied, wooden, threatened and old but still more alive than their slowly disintegrating love:

The house breathes, aches, lives. Cracks its joints. The still supple timber adjusts to the shifting balance of my wife and I, the furniture. For all its plumb squareness and dead levels, there is a reassuring give, a making of allowances.

His wife, an engineer who “can talk stressors and turning movements until [his] head hurts”, demolishes and renovates, threatening his identity and connections with the past:

Handed down by the words of fathers.
Nails in.
A portrait on the wall. Still
Grasping at something intangible.
A child’s bedroom.
Hammering it home.

We gradually move inside the house, into the subconscious, into the world of unrealised dreams. His wife becomes radical. She has layers of plans with pent-up meanings. She becomes eroticised by change, she seduces him, she wants to knock down walls: “Her timing was impeccable. Three o’clock when all my defences are down and her feather fingers on my right buttock. I didn’t hesitate.” Who’s in control now? as he listens to her movements in the house, tracking his lover by creaks and sighs

They wear each other down, sawdusting away intimacy, erecting new traps for entanglement; she wants one room to be a rectangle. She wins arguments by agreeing with him, her needs escalate, he becomes displaced: “But we don’t need it. Not anymore. You sleep with me now, remember?”

Like the house, he can adjust to her rhythm, straining and giving, bathing in the warmth and lingering light of her handiwork. Like the house, he can learn to become exposed.

RealTime issue #28 Dec-Jan 1998 pg. 16

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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