Roominghouse, Winter

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Catprints, dogprints, marksof ancient childrenhave made the paths we follow

to the vestibule, piledwith overshoes, ownerless lettersa wooden sled.

The threadbare treadson the stairs. The trailsworn by alien feet

in time through the forest snowdriftsof the corridor to this remnant, thisdiscarded door

What disturbs me in the bathroomis the unclaimed toothbrush.

In the room itself, noneof the furniture is mine.

The plates are on the tableto weight it down.

I call you sometimesTo make sure you are still there.

Tomorrow, when you come to dinnerThey will tell you I never lived here.

My window is a funnelfor the shapes of chaos

In the backyard, frozen bones, the childrens' voices, derelict objects

Inside, the wallbickles; the pressure

balanced by this clearsmall silence.

We must resist. We must refuseto disappear

I said, In exilesurvivalis the first necessity.

After that (I say thistentatively)we might begin

Survive what? you said.

In the weak light you lookedover your shoulder. You said

Nobody ever survives.

© Margaret Atwood