This morning you mistook the teapot
for a shoe, understandable
in this city where transubstantiation
is no more divine than wash water
tossed on the street.
I conduct tests to determine
our evolving composition. We float
more easily than when we arrived
at this seaside. We are becoming
smog, dumpling steam, phlegm
in an old man’s throat.
Who knows where it may lead.
Maybe one morning I will be
the shoe, and you the teapot.
Our neighbors will carry us
home finally. I would like that.
You on the stove, me by the door.
Each of us sure of purpose and place.
There’s too much land here, enough to store
every last rotting bit as long as we like. In closer country,
measures are taken, bones dug up after a few years, an emptying
as natural as a weekend morning when the jam no longer fits
on the shelf in the refrigerator, when you pull each tub out
of its corner and pop the lid, examine the damage. The chill
slows things down, but nothing stops the mold. Best to toss
the whole mess in the trash, but even then the spores
get away from you, drifting along the hallway, demanding
attention after the forgetting. They know they were worthy
once of preservation. What is a grave if not a cabinet
for the things we have let wait too long?
In the cold months, my hands reach
for warmth, one sweater at first, then
another. A coat found on a bench.
Wool knitted on small needles.
Quills bristling from rayon. The slow build
of soot on an unkempt chimney.
The thaw comes later each year,
and the zippers are more stubborn.
Last August I bathed in my own heat
until an old woman in the metro yanked
at my sleeve. Coward, she said. And I
was ashamed but also frightened
and could not bring myself
to strip down there in the lights
and the rush of an incoming train.
Copyright © Alice Pettway 2021