At night, the chairs breathe freely.
If there is a new piece of furniture,
the others turn and introduce themselves:
"I am a chair. And you?" "A lounger."
The couch, footstool, sideboard all ask questions
about the stranger's early life, inspect the newness.
No spills, yet, no tooth marks, no flatulence.
No one has fallen onto it, stubbed a toe.
The imported wickerish thing
asks questions none can understand,
but even the lounger admires the lacquer.
Over time, dining and living room sets
get separated, their howls
so high-pitched even dogs can't hear them.
Grief can make furniture indiscrete,
cause them to snap—even under the delicate weight
of a shrinking grandmother.
Some age proudly, are slim, unobtrusive,
understand more than they let on.
They murmur to each other about Old World values,
about market prices and rates of appreciation,
ignore the Art Deco and Bauhaus pieces,
will not speak to anything designed
by Frank Lloyd Wright, no matter how polite.
Out in the barn, chairs miss legs, seats.
Tables without tops look like andirons.
Loungers sprawl unstuffed, springs shot.
Identifying tags, family histories,
distinctive paint and finials—all have been removed.
Slumping, bruised, they turn to each other,
"What's your story?"
James Engelhardt, Nebraska, USA