A crisp automatic fire,
the quick wick smell of metals stressed by heat,
click on, click off,
the persistent smell of
lighter fluid, fuel oil, natural gas, silver polish,
some meant to burn, some meant to gleam.
Nocturnal breathing, stifled breath,
stopping at each scent,
lingering quotes on a random night
dreaming for sleep and silent dreams.
Light paper leaves turned in tinctured fingers,
a lighter flashed alive, solvent smell,
acrid smoke, twitching noses,
withered smoke, a choking cough.
Sweat-stained khaki gloves, knitted fingers spread,
a tam o’ shanter, brown, lopsided, a bulging crown,
too new to throw away, too old to save,
the chain-link leash, a tooth-marked leather loop,
past and future teeth begging the mistress
to come out for a walk and again for another.
A deep oak sea of grain,
whorls still and shifting,
captured in an oval dining room,
four chairs, four arms, four cushions,
two young, two old, too strained, too trapped,
amber would capture the motion in this room,
sticky, hot, frozen, lucent,
cracks and clotted spots obscuring the view.
Two polished silver trivets, one with a missing screw,
one with a blemish that will not polish out,
one with a bowl of rice,
one with a gravy boat, the brown drowning
in the boat, pulling it to the bottom of the night.
A cat curled in muslin sleep,
mocha light shines from her calico back.
Earlier, she crept toward conflict, bristling danger,
a bird perched outside didn’t know the death coil
fixing it from the window sill, a serpent’s slitted eyes.
Eyes do not exist now, fur lies still, flies not;
windows watch when the light pours through
and change the shapes as night comes,
the cat moves through, a dark soundless slink
to check for mice and other scuttling sounds.
White light, afternoon sun killing shadows on the run,
mote lines contrasting with the shaded shapes
an oak cupboard, sideboard, chest.
A Spanish queen portrayed, stiffened in canvas,
cracks cluttering her face, once a beauty,
now another lost note to a history no one knows.
A large copper boiling pot with a handle
ready for the fireplace from a distant time,
once stocked with turnips and broth,
carrots and thyme, cabbages and cloves,
no contents now but a crust not cleaned,
a cauldron for a manor house.
No longer. Never again.
An oval control where circles cannot go,
a circle confines where lines are all that holds,
the oak is oval, breaking twice at the gate-leg,
leaves in place, falling to rest in gravity’s embrace.
The brown table, centered, bright and old
in light and dark, supplies a place where spirits
draw near, each to each, an oval coaxing pulses
to pump as one, a space with four distinct fates,
four hearts alive until they pump no more.