So much death in the room but no people–
the candles burned down to their stumps,
the food untouched, meat growing cold
in its grease. Under the couch, the cat plays
with a mole it dragged in from the bar.
The mole crawls off. The cat drags it back.
If cats could laugh, this one would be laughing.
The air in the room is thick with shouting,
although no words are left. The woman is upstairs
tying to write a letter. The main is outside
measuring the dead space between the stars.
The air is thick the way cold gravy is stick,
the way air in a dream is thick when you run
and whatever is running after you gets closer.
The only sound comes from the stereo where
the needle is stuck at the end of a record.
Click, click, it says, click, click — a sound
like the detritus of all their words together.
They are not here to listen. She is upstairs,
jabbing her pen repeatedly against paper.
He is outside staring up at the holes in the sky.
How sloppy the sky looks with light leaking from it
like water from a cracked ceiling. But what
can he do about it? He has no wish to fix it,
nor is he yet brave enough to drag it down.
Stephen Dobyns’ book Black Dog, Red Dog was selected for the National Poetry Series in 1984. Old House originally appeared in the Summer 1981 issue.