Her eyebrows shot out like shrubs sprouting from the loess
of her forehead, wrinkled at the sight of my legs draping like serpents
over the armchair that started off white when we first bought it with debt —
a promise, a hole she dug, in blue ink, for us to bury together.
“I wonder how much it would cost to steam clean this chair?” she said,
her empty stare filled with strain, veins sprawled chaotically
as those on the leaves that sway back and forth by our window;
we often confuse them for clay-colored sparrows
that descend from the roof onto the overhead lines when we argue.
I looked over at her and then at the soot
of our lipids smeared like hardened bole
on the chair’s skirt: it was a painting of our days in Eden —
oil on polyurethane fabric — the deep gray of dirt
and the muted tones of all the things we wanted to say,
but couldn’t afford to leave behind; the hues that would remain
even after we managed to pay off the debt,
and used what was left to permanently fix,
with steam, the stains in this portrait.
“I don’t know,” I said, as I clouted the padded armrest,
as carelessly as she had signed the credit application,
“hopefully not as much as the chair itself.”
Her puzzled stare grew sterner as the dust specs made us cough;
they floated about us as a dew of minuscule butterflies
looking for a way out, a way home, through the singular spot
in our apartment where the sun hews through the pane.
They seemed to rise up, defying gravity, toward the window
where their mothers had once arrived as immigrants
from hundreds of miles and years away,
seeking for a new place to rest, in which to be still, for a moment.
All dust is destined to settle — our flesh included —
and meld with secretions and sediments;
yet sometimes, its particles fly out the window —
disappearing in the sunlight —
and reach the sky and, if they’re lucky, the stars.