The Dust We Bring Home With Us,

The Dust We Left Behind

In what was once

their unused front room,

the dusty face of the clock

hanging above his bone

dry fish tank can look,

at dusk or when it’s raining,

like it might be a map.

On the bed hospice brought,

dad sighs to leave

his breath,

on each cold lens

of the last pair of glasses

he will ever own.

It takes time

for him to clear,

with his shirttail,

fingerprints and skin

flakes from glass

shaped to bend light

to where his eyes

need it to be.

It takes time

to put them back on.

He asks if it’s raining.

He says his garden

really needs a good rain.

The old aunts sit with him and wait,

use mint tins as ashtrays,

and cry over old monochrome photos

passed around

one by one until

the box is empty.

Looking for the time,

the clock shows me a bent road

that can lead

to different places   

depending on when

one departs.


Back then they bought

ruined things

at auction.

How could someone cloak

that cherry, that maple,

that solid oak under 

avocado semi-gloss

or antiqued harvest gold?

On the first of a string

of warm early autumn days

when no rain was expected,

Dad broke the tables and chairs down.

Carefully drawing out pegs,

turning screws,

and tapping joints apart

when there wasn’t glue.

I kicked all the rotten

apples to the corner of the yard

so we could kneel 

in the shade to spread

can after can of caustic

stripping gel onto

each ugly surface.

The curdled acid seeped

and urged the paint

to forget what it promised.

Wasps followed

the scent of soft,

broken fruit

and left us to our work.

Lee Potts is a poet with work in several journals including Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review, UCity Review, Parentheses Journal, Riggwelter, and Sugar House Review. He is poetry editor at Barren Magazine. His first chapbook, And Drought Will Follow, will be published in early 2021. He lives just outside of Philadelphia and you can find him on Twitter @LeePottsPoet or online at