The Salvation of the Loud Refrigerator

by Jesse Millner

Having your wife leave you is exhausting.
The moon still rises and falls outside
& the Florida heat kicks your ass & all
the lawns are brown with expectation
of the next tropical system that may
or may not destroy everything you love
& hate & hold onto. Holding on is so stupid.
You know that, but you can’t help reaching out
for the familiar, which is gone now, replaced
by empty rooms & an ancient refrigerator
in a rented apartment that bellows occasionally like a foghorn,
which is what you need as you navigate the strange
rooms of this new place, trying to find the bathroom
at night, using the horn to establish direction
while stumbling down the hallway, really having to pee.
So, you think: this is how it’s been for sailors
for generations, lost near a foggy coast, afraid
of rocky shoals & shallows, listening for the sound
of a horn or anything that might show
danger. You stub your toe on the dining room
table. You find a switch & suddenly the world
is too bright, shining with the hard angles
of walls meeting ceiling, the steady arithmetic
of tiles adding up to square feet, a puzzle
solved as you finally reach the bathroom,
for a moment, startled by the face that
looks back at you in the mirror. There
you are, unshaven in the early morning,
toothpaste stains on your chin, what little
hair you have left curled into bizarre
little formations signaling the chaos
rendered by bad sleep & your eyes,
half-open, still squinting in the brightness,
looking back at you with so many questions
about how & why & what does it mean
to hold so much sorrow inside & when
will the daylight come with its festival
of sun trickling through the pond
cypress & slash pine outside
the screened lanai where yesterday
you saw five deer materialize, munching
on the long dewy grass then assuming
a stillness that made you love them even more.

Jesse Millner’s most recent poetry book, “Memory’s Blue Sedan,” was released by Hysterical Books of Tallahassee, Florida, in April 2020. He has a story in Best Small Fictions 2020. Jesse lives in Estero, Florida with his dog, Lucy.