Narrow Elegy for 39 


by Jill Khoury


There is a direction in time by which spilled milk does not go back into the glass

          – “Introduction to Entropy” (Wikipedia)



I don’t know

who to call

when it rains

through the ceiling

fleck fleck

or all the gas

burners set

themselves alight

a flock of

mottled geese

on the back

slope their heads

swivel they talk

to each other


hiss a warning

when I approach—

I retreat I don’t

know who to call

when the longcase

clock in the den

starts creeping

backwards second

by second

the cherubs

around the face

turn wicked

with frowns and

tiny claws

I put my useless

ear to the tower

the pendulum beats

rhythmic as ever

though everything

is wrong a commotion

in the chimney

thirtynine swallows

plummet          into the

fireplace sending up

clouds of ash

I bend to look

all dead I wrap

my hand around

one dusty body

and lift it—so light

and the bill

like an owl’s

snubbed and wide

not what I


nothing today

is what I


and I don’t

know which

experts can fix

this it rains harder

water mixes

with ash to

make mud

and the bird

bodies float

over the hearth

and into the lap

of my skirt

I scream and

jump back

the kitchen

is ablaze—sour

plastic smell

from cheap

utensils melting

the plaster

sags in pockets

from the ceiling

like so many

small breasts

and I don’t

feel so well

and I won’t

dine or

rest or


a fire any-

time soon

out the window

a light snow

begins to