by Claire Walter

First it’s only a leak so you don’t notice 
the wood softening beneath your feet 
or the spot on the carpet growing like ringworm. 
It’s December and he’d always been the one 
to drip the faucets, but now the leak, 
eager and ignored, gluts like an artery
opening itself to your kitchen. Your dog
sleeps as you undress the house alone, 
split cabinets from their cradles, pull tile 
like teeth and say you’re sorry, you really are.
The kitchen is full of skeletons:
soggy cedar chairs, a sink on the floor 
laid upside down like a trap long sprung
and damp, hand-colored photos of your family
who are somewhere else. 
Blame it on your failing
endocrine system, on the cancer
scare, on your daughter who just left 
for rehab, for which you also blame yourself.
Get a suite at the Holiday Inn off I-65,
say your black lab is a guide dog.
When the clerk questions you, insist
she also sniffs bombs.
Use hotel shampoo as bubble bath
and draw yourself a nice cold one.
You’ve heard of eggs frying on hot asphalt
and wonder as you fill your bellybutton 
with water if it will shimmer with ripples
of pre-boil like a pot without purpose. 
Thrust your torso above the bathwater,
let the puddle simmer and see 
for yourself. Your dog stretches her head 
over the lip of the tub and licks
the wet from your navel.