Dead Time

Thin light eases through dirty windows
dust kitties rustle under beds
still tangled from restless dreams.
Last night’s dishes under cold water
wait like a reproach in the sink
& the chores undone call to her
with the voice of guilt
(her husband’s voice).
Still dressed in faded flannel
she sits, open novel on her lap,
staring out the window at nothing.
Her children rove the neighborhood,
snotnosed urchins in dirty clothes;
she hears neighbors whisper behind her
in the market aisle but doesn’t care-
how could they understand, nurtured
by the very life that is killing her?
Let her husband compare her with them:
the mothers of clean, obedient children,
wives of spotless houses, unmicrowaved food,
salon-waved hair & Avon faces…
Some mornings she slips out unseen
for a pre-housework walk in the woods
& returns at night with empty eyes,
leaves and twigs snarled in her hair,
to an angry husband, crying children.
She can’t tell them where she’s been;
just lost somewhere in the dead time,
in those empty minutes, hours, days
that measure out her endless life.