– After Kaveh Akbar

when is a room full?
How many chairs are needed?
How many people in relation
to square feet?

Are rooms only full of people?
No, a room could be full of tigers!
So then tigers and people and chairs…

i leave a full room, is it still full?

Is a room full only when it is
too full for one
to move? Or when every seat is
taken? Upon which condition, a room
could not be full of only chairs— their
vacancy is a gesture toward openness—
so we’re back to people and tigers.

First, let me ask,
there is a room full of people
and tigers, and the tigers
eat all of the people. Does the room
still contain the same
number of occupants?

i give up negative space
in this counting:  breath fumbles.
Though the porch is full of people,
it isn’t quite, so it’s quiet.

Perhaps I ate a bad plum the pre-devoured
human might make their case to a ticked-off
and hungry tiger.

A fly raises its warm leg
toward the small heat of a soft light.

Before i told you that
these tigers were ticked-off
and hungry, did we both
assume danger in the room?

Does light fill a space?

A fly, another fly, lands on a lit ceiling
and stands or sits upside down.

And what of this pesky subject
of light? What burns to say; what
can fill a room that remains empty?

The lights in many rooms tick
me off: bug zappers that make
too much noise, the low-lights
over your casket that made you look alive.

You just had your nails done last week
my uncle tells me over and over
as he sweeps the same step again.

i’ve been wandering
the dim rooms of my memory
searching for the first day we met. Now

i’m distracting myself. They moved
your body into the sanctuary where
a boy lit a thurible. As the smoke rose,
the smoke and a shaft of light become visible,
each making the other’s presence known—

O Kathy, I’m sorry I never came to visit.