by Melissa Barrett

Around the same time that umbrellas went comfortably co-ed,
you could walk the wet bridge without query, without
being called queer, without the rain finding that quiet white
part of you—of course it’s white. Right
around the time The Umbrellas was painted: all those plump

chalked-up cheeks. Pre, post, and all throughout bad art
but before the telescopic folding umbrella ensconced our best gentlemen
like silky attics—what a strange invention, from the French,
ombrelle. Of course it’d catch. Except with the Puritans,

who spurned it because the rain is rain is rain is Jesus Christ.
Which was right around the time the Baron Jejeebhoy
was busy distributing his lots to the poor. In 1858,
that should have been the fashion. In 1958, it should have been law.
One hundred and two years before I was told
that history repeats itself, but only the bad history, causing

every window in my life to shatter, again. So the rain fell harder:
the gutters churning, worms upending—Hours later
the puddles were clouds because everything gets flipped around
like that. Like my little cousin Hannah, the brat: named the same way
forward and back. Ninety-two thousand years
before the dogbrella should have never been invented.
Thirty-two minutes ago I walked my dogs in the rain,
Puritan-like. When time travel is real, I’ll walk them
to the hall tree where Bliss’s jacket hangs drizzly
with spinal fluid. Make him suck on a Carbolic Smoke Ball.
Or the Gdańsk Time Ball, which was considered
technology once. And then the big war started: the second one.

I told you: only the bad history. And we never listen
to living history, says Gramps who fought in all the wars
and walked uphill both ways. So he winds his watch
but reads the porcelain dial backwards. Miasma is a good example:
it was science before it wasn’t, and now you need a permit
to spray Glade in LA. Three hours before Mount Lister
will become a frail raft, deleveled, speck of a speck,
I’ll drain my Listerine in the bay. Most people obsess over time,
but not like this. I was raised in a house with more than
4,000 pocket watches and clocks: a pendulum swings in my chest.
They’re building amphibious homes now—
houses suitable for frogs. The carbon is my heart

burning like a goldenrod-adorned log.

Published on April 26, 2016