Something in the House Was Beeping


Thank you for your ignorance, it said.

On my orders, my husband dismantled the coffee maker.

I toppled boxes of old insurance forms; I threw


cotton sundresses over my shoulder

like salt for summer's spilled luck.

Am I getting warmer?


No, it said, pre-, post-, and cold beep, beep

from the utility knife drawer or

secretest pleats of the linen closet.


From smoke alarms I pulled perfectly good batteries—

batteries with something still left

to contribute. The clock radio


wore a fright wig of wires

when I was finished with it.

Dusk pulled night's covers to its chin.


Ants, oblivious, divvied up the season and carried it off,

crumb by dumb crumb,

while the screech owl that last spring aspired to eat our puppy


sat like a Buddha on the telephone cable

contemplating what was, by then,

two beeps:


one throbbing murder in my new dental work, the other

one distant and forlorn as my lost

first communion watch.


Does my husband drink too much red wine in the evenings?

Will I ever be capable of genuine closeness

with anyone?


A beep is a germ, a wink, a ticking intimacy, an auditory

pill to take for nerves

if you can take it—nerves ending and nerves beginning


all over again.

Where are you? I shouted at the air.

I'm in the backyard, my husband called. You should see the stars!


A truck in my brain backed up, beeping.

My sandbag heart banged against the upright bars: I was

in this alone, trying to pry open my son's PlayStation 2 with a pair


of toenail clippers. My handsome son,

who no longer bothered to hide his face

when he rolled his eyes at me.


What specialist, what exterminator could I call this late

to solve the problem of my authority

over nothing? What would it cost me?


Then, nothing. Silence—

complex, baffling, as though

a once-bright beast, a shaggy, munificent god had turned


a cold shoulder to the whole

lousy property, and I turned fifty.


Places I've Been

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