We need to pick a place to meet, when it happens,
you said. In the face of a present tense riddled with fissures,
there is no way to be ready for disaster but maybe
we can at least be together. The night before, winds
galloped circles around our house, throttled the door
in its peeling frame. Rain streamed from the roof in quantities
the airport would later deem historic and everywhere
on the ground: muddy black walnut shells, halved and empty
omens of someone else’s small preparations against an inevitable
future. I self-soothe with talk of radios, frequency,
and high ground. Focus on watching disaster movies that collapse
fear into cliché with the finality of falling buildings. There are stories
that we crawl under like old quilts, and stories like the shallow end
of an ocean ready to rise. I get that nothing is solid, really,
and beneath our feet the earth is moving all the time. The truth is, I wish
there was a fixed point where I could meet you. Coordinates that won’t buckle
or scatter. Somewhere beneath the backyard, the earth unmasks,
unmoors. Ocean-like and map-less. All location dissolved in light.
We’ve just moved to this house, and it feels
like it’s been winter for years. Every tree
in the backyard is faceless and bare, filtered
through the grayscale of December light. Most nights
I can’t sleep, aching from isolation, the articulation
of cruelty in the daily news. Everywhere, a loss
as vast and bright as the moonlit snow covering the street.
The knife edge of daylight, and at night, a cacophony
of scratching, rats climbing, rats fighting, the crunch of fresh snow
under sturdy rat feet. I can’t stop watching the rat tree
because the rats clearly know something
we don’t. We’re newcomers, lonely and ignorant
in the ways of our garden and our empty, cold house, whereas
rat tree is a party, feral night club, rat central, rat eden, rat island,
rat galactic, blasting off into space. Planet rat, population: multitudes.
Their residence is a fire that keeps me warm in my house
as they twist and chatter in theirs: to build a home
in the winter air. To shelter in my own fur,
my fear and fury—
to build a home with my teeth.
Carolyn Supinka is a writer and visual artist from western Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in The West Review, Sixth Finch, and DIAGRAM,and her chapbook When I interview fire was published in 2022 by Bottlecap Press. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where she creates poems, comics, and prints, and works as an arts administrator and as co-editor of Conjunction, a zine micropress.