It’s been a grey summer filled with signs.
The moisture from far-off ice melt collected in curtains on the windows,
Running down in tracks that spelled ruin.
The parquet floors buckled spontaneously like a rumpled quilt;
The door refused to close.
The mold drew thick black lines on the ceiling
Around the white splotches of bleach massacres.
Every day was filled with my son’s algebraic dysfunctions—
Literature and music, too.
My son saw past and future in the characters of Tolstoy.
My husband gazed into the computer, adding to fragments shored.
Books filmed with mildew leaned this way and that on the shelves and overflowed onto the floors.
I fiddled the while—Bach and jazz, tangoes and jigs—
My daughter drifted in, taught music lessons, and left.
Our art, carefully preserved, we’d looked at too long.
We gravitated to the smart devices—computers, television—
Hearth fires gathering round to tell us stories of exotic lands—
Hulu, Youtubia, Netflixion—a million channels flowing inward,
Especially after, when the screens went dark.
My daughter’s final departure is sharp and joyful as the slam of a car door,
My son’s daily trial run to high school and back‘s a longer, lingering version.
We’re left here.
In the oven, the slashes on the bread blossom into craters,
Wafting fragrance out. Cream in the coffee explodes in clouds.
We’re in midlife, soon to be empty nesters, chewing clichés like a cud.
Behind the house, by the pond, the beavers are constructing a lodge.
They’ve piled up sticks of all shades, from cream to black,
Sharp ends pointing every which way.
Our young throw off the portents: their way is always up.
For us it’s as complex as the beavers’ hieroglyph,
As violent as the whirl of yellow jackets startled from their nest.
Lorna Wood is a violinist and independent scholar in Auburn Alabama. She has a Ph. D. in English from Yale University and has published essays on British and American literature. Recently she placed her homeschooled children in the Cleveland Institute of Music and Auburn High School’s International Baccalaureate Program.