Once they were innumerable,
flickering across the brindled openings
of the windows and doors,
lares et penates, the bright spirits
of the house, tiny flaming industries
clicking away the bones of hours.
We took care not to offend them
and left out offerings of new milk,
pleading with them each evening
let the meat nourish us
let the lampwick light
let the cat come home.
Then the cross word
stalked in like a demented
grandmother saying Shoo! Shoo!
scrubbing the corners clean
with the greasy elbows of a frown.
Their extinguished carapaces rustled
under her sacred featherduster
like dead insects.
Now that her humped back is turned,
our genius loci streaks down invisible wires;
gets the coffee ready before we wake,
tapes the show we will never see,
tells us we have mail,
tells us we have a life.
©2001 F.J. Bergmann
"Household Gods" appeared in the WFOP Museletter Winter 2004
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