Landscape with Ash
by Kathy Nelson
The mountains at dawn through the window.
I think, if I concentrate, I might read
the dark shape
in the fold between one peak and another. Maybe
the black spill of sorrow—
illegible in the world’s
brightness. Cleaning the Thanksgiving oven, I remember:
in the novel I am reading, a father gives his son
a biscuit smudged with ash, tells him nothing is cleaner
You are strange, my mother said, dwelling on the past.
Last night, I found a hidden stairway leading down
into a maze of rooms—familiar, as though I had forgotten
the many times I had already come there. Too many sofas,
no lamps, books spilling out of broken boxes.
of atonement—that’s what the father said as he handed his son
the ashy biscuit.
I consider the dusty corners, the gritty
baseboards—they will never be clean all at once. No point
in trying. Best to address what presents itself—the napkin’s
cranberry stain, the gray amoeba
of dried coffee
on the kitchen floor. Paying attention to dreams, my mother
told me, is a waste of time. Rising from the oven’s gloom,
I straighten my back. Through the window
the last shadow
vanishes. The racks gleam sliding in, catching the sun.