During the Long Sickness | Gary Leising
We moved into the refrigerator, brought with us
a menagerie, collected different pairs of animals
on themed shelves: African savannah up top,
plains mammals in the middle, rainforest birds
nesting in the egg-holders on the door. We fed
them with the lettuce and meat we’d stocked,
the birds shredded butcher paper for their nests.
The cold preservative invigorated everyone,
our breath vaporized—we collected its water
in plastic wrap traps, recycling what we could,
with straws and paper plates we invented Swiss
Family Robinson machines to run our lives.
The tiny tigers (of course everything shrunk
to fit the fridge) survived on the porterhouse
for quite some time, but then began to hunt
the elands and ibexes straying near their range.
Before long it was predators and us and birds
calling overhead, birds rarely landing for long,
their wingbeats slowing as they tired. My family
huddled in the shelter we’d built with blocks
of cream cheese and diet cola cans. Above us,
from the freezer, a squawking like unoiled machinery,
fan belts loose enough to slip their gears. It wasn’t
mechanical, we knew, coming from the space
we’d left the polar bears and every species
of penguin. Would those bears begin to hunt
the seals? We waited for the auto-defrost cycle
to kick in, the ice above to melt and wash away
the claws and teeth. We prayed we’d find high ground.
Gary Leising is the author of the book, The Alp at the End of My Street (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014). He has also published three poetry chapbooks: The Girl with the JAKE Tattoo (Two of Cups Press, 2015), Temple of Bones (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Fastened to a Dying Animal (Pudding House, 2010) He lives in Clinton, New York, with his wife and two sons, where he teaches creative writing and poetry as a professor of English.