“reasonable,” “small” and “wrack”

“reasonable,” “small” and “wrack”


a starter home

with kitchen and bathrooms redone,

six percent down

an unlocked car

an affordable five-bedroom

in a neighborhood

with good schools

a crowded floor

in a stumbled-upon squat

a townhouse

just a five-minute stroll

from the subway

a cot in a shelter

that comes with a breakfast

and meant-to-be caring advice

a renovated loft

with a lease

of negotiable length

a hanging park bench

swaying beneath its narrow roof

a ninth-floor coop

with a river view,

new elevator installed this year

a cardboard encampment

beneath an overpass

an independent living apartment

with a reasonable buy-in

a rug rolled out

in a drainage tunnel

a fifteen-acre wooded lot

with a sandy beach

a tent

some charity

wanted to give away

a timeshare

in the mountains

a stretch of pavement

occupied by no one else


You wouldn’t call

the small the little

of the back, hollow

not what you thought

when you returned to wonder

about the Rokeby Venus,

depression not the word

for what you feel

when your thumbs rub

your husband’s lower spine,

and, now that you’ve come back

to bed with your coffee

and found him half asleep,

you take a couple of sips

before testing how well

the cup sits in that saucer.



—changing lanes,

the 18-wheeler sideswipes

a church bus, the death count

increasing with each news report,

the accident largely forgotten

by the weekend—

lacks the finality

of wrack, wrack denoting

a catastrophe so utter

—overpasses collapsed, families

turned treacherous, the sun dimmed

for months, faith in life gone—

we’re apt to downplay the word

as no more than redundant

by alliterating it with “ruin.”

About the Author

William Aarnes

William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—and a third collection, Do in Dour, from Aldrich Press (2016). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, FIELD, and Burningword Literary Journal.