After Daniel Borzutsky
He was sitting in a large rocking chair placed in the middle of the room.
Now, he was an old man that I barely recognized.
He sat in my chair watching my TV
As if he owned me.
I was sitting on an old couch we had thrown away a long time ago.
There were still scratches on it from the cat,
Still that same cream and beige pattern I had known
All those years.
I stood up.
The wooden floor was creaking, creaking.
I heard a loud bang downstairs.
H was there. M kept cooking, trying to stay calm.
The steam was so thick you could see it.
She was wearing her orange and red headscarf,
The white stove had long rusted over.
The refrigerator was crowded with old coupons and magnets I had made before.
Still, there was something familiar about that kitchen,
It was always warm. And friendly.
H was yelling. He told M
To salt the water.
But she didn’t.
There is no salt in oatmeal, there is no salt in oatmeal.
I came over. H was yelling louder.
He grabbed the pot and turned it over.
I jumped higher than I ever had, so high my head hit the ceiling.
I hit my head on the wooden shelf. I pushed H.
My feet were burning on the pavement, burning on the night’s grass.
I ran up to the little tree in our backyard, the only tree that was left,
The only one.
All the trees had died, but they still stood like phantoms in the back of the yard.
Even the oak tree, which we thought would’ve stayed,
Left like the rest of them.
That was when we knew we were alone.
We couldn’t eat the seeds.
The tree wasn’t good for anything else, it was small and wiry, but
They were all red and supple.
They were only for the birds.
M came out with her hands covered in dish towels.
She said he left.
We stood for a little, looking at the field before us:
The dandelions, the grass, the broken roof tiles.
It wasn’t long before we got tired.
It was shortly after we realized everyone else had to be asleep.
We sat under the tree together, listening to crickets.
I knew what would happen next.
At first, I didn’t want to lay down because it would make my back wet,
But eventually I did.
I lied with my hands behind my head. It was the first time I noticed the blood.
I gave up.
We heard the machines whirring behind the fence.
They started humming steadily, steadily,
Until they were around us.
Until we couldn’t separate them from us.
We couldn’t see anything.
It was the dead of night.
That’s why it was the worst – not M’s burned hands or my tired legs,
But the fact that the night was the only one to whom we could relate.