THE PURGATORY OF THE HOUSEBOUND
You know this is not the worst, nor the best.
Either is imaginable, even foreseeable
according to those who know the most,
make myth or foment lies,
but universal instructions did not make it
to all sectors. The sun is white-hot
outlining the abstracts of naked winter
limbs unrecovered. Maple and red oak.
A few inches of daffodils poke up
under a chain-link fence. You look
beyond the windows, through chinks
to where the mourning doves play,
not flirtatious yet, just aware
of themselves strutting opened-up grass
the snow tamped down. Whatever
you have washed, there is more
that needs your attention, more
that threatens – a yawning cupboard,
the boxes on the porch you don’t dare
open because you don’t know who
touched them last. You puddle
your suspicions within the sun’s warmth
slanting through the window, where
the dog naps as if heaven is found.
Old stories try to guide you, not
Biblical. This plague is no punishment.
Those stories of people holed up
in igloos or castles or cabins teetering
in high rocky passes, the tales
they share of where they were born,
how they lived, what they learned,
what they aspire to at the next turn
where no certain next exists
even in candlelight.
Memo is too formal. To-do list demands action.
My missives lie between hint and whisper.
Linneaus made a clock out of the intervals
when his marigolds opened and closed.
A message he could read. What I stir into the dust
on the mahogany chest under the broken clock
is not laziness, the circle suggests memories
of Stonehenge and zodiacal lions.
My survivors won’t know how much to feed
the dog or why I kept the doll’s head.
Lining up my will, instructions for the dogs,
passwords and numbers– those are concretes
beyond the unnecessary details of where the sun
comes through the window at 4 pm,
how much the living room darkens when snow
settles on its skylights, how the dogs
make known to me what they need, why
I held a funeral for the ancient sugar maple
that fell over in the forest, two centuries
of twisted giant laid to rest alone.