Things that Leave an Aching Feeling Inside by Lee Ann Roripaugh

The flittering plop of moths bumping up
against the ceiling
late at night, and the shadowed, mosaic out-

lines of their bodies
littering the ceiling light’s bright glass bowl—
round, triangular

wings filtering gold-hot light like tiny
black-singed hearts. I think
of the one tangled in my hair the day

before, a buzzing blur,
how it rested in the palm of my hand—
using a foreleg

to pull down one delicately slender
antenna and clean
it with rhythmic, sweeping strokes. The breathy

rush of wind during
late November storms, specked with flecks of sleet,
making the trees roll

and heave and sigh against a queasy sky
where an orange moon
wobbles in and out of the clouds, greasy

and slick as an egg yolk.
Returning from the airport to empty
rooms, it makes me think

of the lover who always came to meet
me right at the gate,
and stopped on the way home for drive-thru tacos.

The razor-quick slit
of stunned clarity, so sharp I can’t tell
how deep it’s sliced,

when I finally admit to myself
that I’ve fallen out
of love. Knowing there is a part of me

that quietly waits for
this cut—for the piercing sting of silver,
for the red salty

tug of relief to bloom in warm tulip-
bright aureolas, like
watching the wilted body of my red-

capped oranda twirl
like a twisting shimmer of silk scrap caught
in a wind funnel

when I flush it down the toilet. A cat
who mourns another
cat—whose name in Japanese meant cloud

spending the entire
day obsessively searching for him room
by room. So much falls

away—our skins slipping off our shoulders
to coat our houses
in a fine layer of dust, while dust-mites

expectantly stand
in wait, ravenous to consume our past,
the selves we have lost

and continue to lose along the way,
until all we have
is what we have left to inventory:

There are moths to sweep
up off the floor, bookshelves to dust. There was
a woman who did

not know how to let go, and finally
there was the silvered
merciful flash of the veterinarian’s

needle. Now there is
a cat who plaintively wander the house
and will not eat. There

is a woman sitting in silent rooms
who is eating drive-
thru tacos by herself, listening to

the soft ticking of
the clock, like a metronome marking time
without music.

To learn more about Lee Ann Roripaugh visit her her page on the Poetry Foundation’s website
by clicking here.

This poem comes from Lee Ann Roripaugh’s book On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year.

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Here is a link to purchase Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book.

And we referenced  Natanya Ann Pulley’s new book With Teeth.