Everything becomes ‘after’ at this point,
when doors hang open on broken hinges
and luxuries large and small grow mold,
begin to decay. Vermin invade boudoir
and great room, gnawing like hunger.
The chef’s kitchen deteriorates as leaves pile
on chipped granite countertops and settle
in the corners of the breakfast nook.
We dreamed here, of greater wealth
and sumptuous display, but in the end
consumption devoured us, root and branch
and glossy hardwood parquet flooring.
Our mementos disintegrate faster
in spring’s wild storms, our bones settle
under the detritus of a garden
gone to seed and filled with dandelions,
goldenrod and loosestrife rising
like fireworks. A book, left behind
on the back patio, its pages gummed
together, its spine obscured, serves
as a platform for a curious finch,
bright feathers dulled by ash
and evening’s slanting light.
Our ghosts linger at the bottom
of the garden, where the wellhouse
sits tangled in vines. We dreamed
of a maze, labyrinthine echoes
laid out, broken stakes marking
turns and dead ends. But the knots
that made our future into an empty
past have tightened, collapsed.
Broken mirrors have swallowed
our reflections, leaving only splinters
of clouds, a jagged edge of bird’s wing.
Shy and nocturnal, Jennifer Crow has rarely been photographed in the wild, but it’s rumored that she lives near a waterfall in western New York. You can find her poetry on several websites and in various print magazines including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Liminality, and Kaleidotrope. She’s always happy to connect with readers on her Facebook author page or on twitter @writerjencrow.
Backstory: While I don’t recall the first place I read the term used in the title, it was probably when I did some reading on Roman history last year. It stuck in my mind because it inspired such a vivid image for me, and I wanted to use it in a poem. As I was working out the shape my poem would take, I started thinking not of the Roman Empire’s decline, but the current state of things in the world and the way our own society seems poised to crumble from neglect and malice. When you add that to my husband’s preferred TV viewing, which tends to involve couples arguing over which expensive countertops to get for their kitchen renovations, I couldn’t help thinking of fancy homes with high square footage and elaborate decorations, and how they might look after their owners were dead or missing. I suspect those granite countertops will outlast their owners.
Image credit: Abandoned house (SnappyGoat) and house finch (clipartart)