This Year by Brooke Middlebrook

In all the homes of this year, we flickered off and on. The dog licked herself drunk. We scratched grooves in the lintel with our fingernails to attend the passage of time. Light was scarce but we could feel the wind ripple through our failures. In each home stood a dining table without chairs. In retaliation, we became proficient at folding napkins into esoteric shapes. We apologized above and below. We listened to one song on repeat but it wasn’t an anthem, only some waves rippling through grooves in the hallway of time. We looked cool in our new sunglasses. In all the homes of this year were nested a series of smaller homes, ever-expanding yet ungoverned by the logic of thermodynamics or adjoining bathrooms, and occasionally containing a single dewdrop-like fear. We made a game of it. We tickled ourselves sober. Doorways hummed. Shadows had salinity. Just brush the crumbs on the linoleum. Who among us can afford to be safe? At the crest of each moment we stretched on tiptoe, trying to see beyond the horizon’s curve. A mist of starlings. Slouching like glaciers, ready to leave. Smoothing out the creased and fertile worry. Flickering refuge.

Brooke Middlebrook grew up in the hills of western Massachusetts but currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. Her work has appeared in Gravel,*82 Review, and Atticus Review.

Photo by Alex Rose