On reading Patti Smith’s “Early Work”

when it comes out from hiding it’ll sound damn good But I can’t promise when it will or how. I want it like sticky ants stick to counter tops, green linoleum crunches in the sink if, and when the disposal turns on.

It never will because no one does the dishes in this goddamn house no one ever does anything. Still, somehow the kitchen manages to clean itself and someone brings the sopping wet blanket from the yard into the basement to dry out. That blanket sat there for 20 years, weathering snow and wind and it never faded because it was black and grey to begin with.

The ants lived modestly under the house for years before they began to expand and renovate. First they took the baseboards in the downstairs bathroom. Then the crawl space in the attic. That was my room. Not the crawlspace, the attic. The walls were four feet tall and I was five foot seven. I had a lump on my head for nine months. I thought I kept bumping my head. Then when I least expected it the lump exuded — six million ants crawled from that crawlspace, like an inverted flashlight. They marched right on out, down the stairs and back out into the yard.

I don’t remember ever wanting anything. I don’t know the difference between want and desire or desire and need. I don’t know the difference so there isn’t one. I am completely useless. I want sweet things and money. Desire rises out of my gut in a wave of nausea. I swallow it down quietly so people don’t think I have indigestion.

I am the widow to my children. I’ve had 20 children. Ten years ago, I said to myself, “I don’t want to do this with my life.” And I looked up from the painting. I was 75 years old. I am no breathless starship. I am the drunken mouse’s hiccup. My children have all moved on and I’m still here.