by Caitlin Kelley 

Tables and shelves are covered haphazard with mail, 
and books, and plants brought indoors for winter.
The ficus drops leaves in piles and the strawberries, 
potted in a plastic urn, won’t last the month.

Bins of compost and garbage are full or overflowing.
The floor is strewn with dog toys, littered with dust and fur, 
and a rowing machine lives halfway between the living room 
and the dining room. Its cheap, plastic wheels scratch the floor.

In isolation, I struggle to appreciate how warm it is here 
with the heat jacked up to seventy, how the coffee flows 
and so does the wine. How the kitchen is almost always clean,
and my dog wags her tail each time I walk through the door.

Please understand: The hours of cleaning are so soon undone. 
There is always a hair in my mug, dark crud under my nails.
A mouse has nibbled the tomato in the wicker bowl 
and none of us are supposed to leave.

Caitlin Kelley is a librarian. She lives in western Massachusetts with her mutt, Rosie Bee, and has survived the pandemic by growing vegetables, going on long walks, and playing guitar poorly. Varada J.M is a 9th-grader based in Kerala’s Koyilandi, studying at Rani Public School, Vadakara. After hurriedly doing homework, Varada divides her time between practicing classical dance and watching horror films. She loves dogs but nobody at home wants one.

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