This poem appears in the Winter 2021 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe, click here.

Sometimes it breaks in violence and surprise—
Burst pipe, shrill smoke alarm, wiring that fries
When bright explosions zigzag through night skies—

But this has brewed for years: the plumbing creaking,
The water’s feeble dribble, cold drops leaking
Somewhere, staining the wallpaper, critiquing

Your long, hand-wrung denials, excuses, stalls.
Some cobbled mechanism finally fails.
There’s nothing for it but to open walls

And cleave down to the heart, the dust-caked lath,
The sodden insulation, the webbed path
Of knob-and-tube, the decades’ seep and seethe.

How did you think it worked, the mess you’ve bared?
Recall what paint and spackle have repaired
In vain, so often. Face it, shuddering, scared

To know this: that the soft cocoon you spun
Will be ripped out by forces not your own.
Trouble so settled-in is not undone

By summer wind chimes jingling in the breeze.
Nor will your garden’s upright hybrid teas
Perfume the ashen scent of memories.

Lift all the window sashes. Feel the warm
Wind heap the cumulonimbus to a swarm.
Let doors blow open to the thunderstorm.