Spring Cleaning

Steam rises from a cup of tea steeping
on the counter. Day by day, entropy

piles up in increments: dirty plates,
spice jars out of order, cookbooks misplaced.

Why can’t it all be elegant like steam?
The Fall is in there somewhere. Time to clean:

reattach the apple to the tree,
make straight what is crooked, number the wanting.

Sort and filter. Tidy. Vacuum and dust.
An uphill battle, against both God and physics.

Finish today or it will haunt your dreams—
chaos personified stalking on thin legs,

following you in clouds of dust down long
corridors and rooms, and rooms beyond.

Wake and make yourself a cup of tea.
Watch the steam rise. Recognize entropy

for what it is: a harsh reminder. Time
and energy moving in one direction only,

dispersal the tale for the end of the day, disorder
the moral, the last unhappily ever after.

But why unhappy? Heat death has its order:
no more imbalance. Clean that from the house!

But that cup of tea, steeping, steeping.
Osmosis same as the rest. Catch the feeling

of time running out. Ever and ever the same.
Locally, order prevails: all the plates washed,

spice jars arranged—this much against the dark.
But when it comes, what is the plan of attack?

Maybe just surrender. Entropy wins
no matter how stiff or organized any resistance.

But still, a little nudge, and this spice jar
lines up its label with that. And that is enough.

Stephen A. Allen is the son of a chemist and a geneticist, but he wandered off into literature at an early age. He lives in southwest Michigan, where he works as a bookseller to support his poetry habit.

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