To protect the ground from falls and noises.
In hometowns, churches look empty
but go on like neighbors that only gamble
on the mail. No dark barks in bucolic scenes.

We wonder who accounts for years of dust,
the storm that impaled the roof
of someone’s pride, an accounting that can’t be
shaken like a dream. It follows us and wraps around

like wire underground—absorbing tasks
we gloss over in ritual. A phone call, followed
by a scuffed sole in a public place.
Some risk to snap us from this narcolepsy.

Wardens, laminate yellow caution, and jewelry.
The note tucked away in a book could read
Dear _____, I loved the way the flood
stained your knees but never got to you.

Eric Steineger teaches English in Western North Carolina. His work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review. He also edits poetry for The Citron Review, a journal with roots in California. Currently, he’s into all things Portugal and does not expect that to change.