Darlene Young

Replacing the Carpet in the Empty Nest

We need less space, but we remodel instead of moving,
holding on to what we can. The family who installed
this ratty shag sold the house in a divorce.
Once their bare feet explored the spongy glory
now decayed to scratch-and-stiff. Surely by now
we’ve worn down the bad karma.
New carpet is a parable of hope.

The metal fanged tacks shriek as I yank them
from the shin-barking edges of stairs.
Poofed breaths of dust roil as I tug, dust
made of the flesh of my babies long grown
into lanky boy-men headed out.
How their diapered toddler bottoms bumped
down these stairs; how I carried them
sleeping, back up.

Other things that came down these stairs:
dying pets, three times. Pajama’d children
aglow with Christmas. Me, too many midnights,
checking the driveway for teenagers,
turning off lights.

That dent in the wall came from the drag-out fight
that broke the bannister and left one whimpering boy
in a corner of his room for hours, terrified
by his own new rage.

How we’ve stomped and slithered this matted yarn.
“Roses bloom beneath our feet,” my own mother used to hum
whenever we children quarreled. We came to hate that song,
its sickly sweetness. The embarrassment
of wishfulness. Wistfulness.

We won’t pull out carpet again.
What, then, can I lay down
between fir strips and pad to anchor our remaining days
in this slippery letting go?
We chose this carpet for its strength,
and also its give.