THE PHYSICS OF HOUSE-KEEPING
by Grace Winn Ellis
Grease from the pan mists on shiny surfaces and cupboard tops.
Dust motes float on air currents, coming to rest on picture frames and door panels,
Adhering to the oily film.
Sand and soil cling to shoe soles, hitching a ride across the threshold, settling on the floor.
Houseplants shed their leaves.
Left-overs in the far corners of the fridge slowly expire.
Mildew creeps across the bathroom tile.
The wiring in the microwave gives up the ghost.
Clothes wrinkle in the closet; buttons come untethered.
Stacks of unopened mail teeter on the table.
Clutter accumulates by geometric proportion,
As each day’s detritus, piled on any horizontal surface,
Magnetically attracts more.
Spiders weave their webs in nooks and crannies.
Slugs, crickets, even tree frogs invade this porous house.
Shocked at the scale of the battle, the strength of the opposing forces,
She loses any impulse to tackle a task, to cleanse, to order,
Merely observing as the downhill slide gathers momentum,
Racing pell-mell, to hell in a hand-basket—
The upwardly mobile grease,
The clinging dust,
The border-crossing dirt,
The defoliating plants,
The de-composing food,
The advancing mildew,
The unmaintainable appliances,
The rebellious clothes and buttons,
The mounting mail and clutter,
The uninvited denizens of the wild—
Until it all passes the tipping point—into chaos.
Motionless on the stained sofa,
She dreams of the match, the falling tree, the bulldozer,
Or the slow, steady process of rot and decay
That will, one day, obliterate it all—
Envisioning the endgame of entropy:
“An ultimate state of inert uniformity.”