As the opening door stirs the ancient air
of his empty bedroom, his mother counts
the infinite particles of dust glimmering
in the yellow haze of sunlight cast by the window--
dust lingers in the breathless air.
Dust streaks on the surface of stuffed dragons,
plush teddy bears, and boxed board games.
Dust gathers in the folds of a rocket ship comforter
that still lays in a crumpled, unmade pile
pushed to the right side of the twin bed.
Dust rests on the back of a drooping movie poster,
the photograph on the front so deeply bent
its warped contents are indiscernible.
Dust hovers in the corners of the cobwebbed ceiling
where glow-in-the-dark stars sag
from loops of unsteady masking tape.
Dust settles on the once-polished hardwood floor,
its deep red color now varnished by a gray sheen.
As she looks on at the drifting and stagnant dust,
she knows her own floors are immaculate,
her own bed sheets neatly smoothed out,
her own belongings sorted into drawers.
The dust reminds her of how things were before--
the slow accumulation of disarray,
of disorder, indecency, disappointment.
Empty glass beer bottles scattered
across a moldy linoleum kitchen floor.
Drunken arguments with her husband,
voices shouting until the red sunrise.
Separate bedrooms down the hall,
the isolation letting hers grow disheveled,
a convoluted labyrinth of paperwork,
from AA meetings, marriage counseling, divorce court.
She’d kept everything spotless ever since they left.
The bottles were thrown out, never bought again.
Every tile on the linoleum was scrubbed
until the unbroken white shone through.
Her paperwork was shredded, belongings stacked away.
She swept dust off every surface she could reach.
And now, as she stands in the doorway
of a lost son who hasn’t inhabited this room
in too many years, who she hasn’t even visited
in too many months, she recognizes the disarray.
She counts the dust particles once more and knows
she’s cleaned up her act everywhere but here.
Ann Rhodes is an author from Southern California. She enjoys writing virtually everything from poetry to sci-fi novels. Her work appears in several publications, including Nine Muses Poetry and The Short Humour Site, and she will be publishing several books and collections in the upcoming months.