January 28, 2012

Rachael Lynn Nevins

HOUSEKEEPING

Well, kiddo, we’re the only parents you’ll ever have, I’m sorry
to say: your father, the artist, and me, the poet
and oft-enraged student of Zen, sitting up in bed and yelling
at your father, “Nirvana is not somewhere else!”
An hour later you were conceived. And now, just look
at the mess we’ve gotten you into!
Clumps of cat fur drift along the edges
of the hallway, and drippings from last month’s tomato sauce
turn black on top of the stove. Again, your father
has left the dish towel on the kitchen counter, and again
I am picking it up, throwing it at him, and wondering,
Who am I? What do I think I am doing?
Mice scurry in the walls, and last week
a chunk of the living room ceiling fell
onto the living room floor. I tell you,
things fall apart, and then they fall apart
some more, and there are days
when the very thought of the boxes still unpacked
a year and a half after our move is enough
to get my tears going. But I’m not talking only about our apartment,
your father’s bad back and bum knee, how all my new hair
is growing in gray, the boarded-up shops around the corner,
or the plastic bags blowing down Ocean Avenue and out
to the Texas-sized pile of junk
collecting in the middle of the sea. We are all
heading toward a future of white dwarves and black holes,
and goodness knows even your cells
have plans of their own. I’m sorry, kiddo,
we’ve got nothing else to give you.
Just this cold and falling apart universe, this cat
sleeping with his face tucked in my sneaker, and your disheveled
father and me, sitting on the bedroom floor and trying to sort
the laundry in heaps all around us, while merrily
you pick up your socks and toss them
onto the wrong pile.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011

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