What Happened When I Turned Off the Heat

Because I turned off the heat
Because I closed the back room windows
Because the wind is an empty threat
and the bottle is an empty bottle
Because the juice in the bottle was once sweet
Because the cheese in the refrigerator is molding
Because the bread on top of the refrigerator is green
Because there are seeds on your stockings
and you are tracking pollen through the house
Because antiseptic wipes can take only so much
and then they are as useless as the heat
when I went to the basement and turned it off

In the house of too much food
In the playground of too much exercise equipment
In the storeroom of too much of nothing
nothing to eat nowhere to sleep not a single seat
no toys no games no books no clothes
In the apartment of too many people
In the garden of too many weeds
dandelions, clover, crabgrass and so many
leaves for boiling and baking
In the street of too many cars and trucks
In the beach of too many dead fish and seagulls
In the ocean teeming with algae, a lack of oxygen
too much carbon dioxide, too much plastic debris

Then we’re in the castle of the big growth forests
Then we’re surrounded by acorns and pistachio nuts
Then the sunlight filters to the grandiose weeds
Then the path fills with sunlight and sunshine,
large clear shadows and large opaque beings
Then we run to clearings and find empty graves
full of stones, pebbles and grass clippings,
mites, centipedes and bluebird feathers
Then a dragon cloud devours the sky
Then it begins to rain and the roof of the castle leaks
stone and plaster and lead paint in large flakes
until the frescoed floor is dotted with white smudges
and our shoes are the color of lime ash and charcoaled wood
Then everything settles into a silence as great as God
and the nations of the planet do not even notice
Then the thinning begins, great birds, long reptiles,
one flick of the tongue of the Komodo dragon

Afterwards there will be little left of what was left to begin with
Afterwards the language of words will be devoid of vocal sounds
and pronunciation will be in the form of whistles and breathing
no one able to communicate until letters are again announced
fitting the afterwards of the world as we say it is directly now
Afterwards will be exactly after that one scar of a word loosens
itself into the realm of invention and intervention
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will eat the dry fruit on the plain
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will sleep in the tall grass
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will allow us to speak
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will speak for us and we will know
Afterwards the words will come freely and fill us with longing
Afterwards we will cry with relief and sing the song of words
whistling, breathing, growling, our teeth bright and sharp

Michael H. Brownstein (USA)

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