Sarah Kain Gutowski

Dust and Empty Words

How careless you have been with your life

and your loves: even your houseplants


lean like barflies toward what they crave:

light’s intoxicating constancy, hope’s vapor,


something more fertile than dust and

empty words. Now their yellow leaves


and limp or brittle stalks remind you

of the jaundiced, passed-out men slumped


behind the wheels of cars in the pub parking lot.

There they waited for dawn or death to end


their slow withdrawal. Your plants wait for this

grace, too. And not just the exhausted ferns


and blanched exotic vines: the walls brandish

their pocked faces every time you raise


the blinds and light exposes each wound –

they wear their scars to prove how much damage


a life with you produces. The musty stacks of paper

piled high inside the basement feed a growing family


of mice and crickets: perhaps the only nurturing

you have ever done, wholly accidental.

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Sarah Kain Gutowski is the author of Fabulous Beast: Poems (Texas Review Press), winner of the 14th annual National Indies Excellence Award for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in various print and online journals, including The Gettysburg Review, So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, The Threepenny Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Southern Review.