Once You Were Gone

by Paul Hooker

There were questions
I had never thought to ask
while you were here,
questions of ontology and teleology
I do not know how to answer.
Why must I wash my supper plate
in soap and hot water when to the naked eye
a wipe and cold rinse suffices no less well?
Why must I make the bed
when I have slept only on my side
and left yours undisturbed and will sleep again
in the same little hollowed nest
tonight and tomorrow night and the night after?
Why must I dry the shower walls
with that raveling towel you threw
for the purpose over the glass door
if tomorrow I will wet them once again,
and mold is no less a living thing than I?

I searched for answers
in all the standard reference works:
the photos on the mantle,
your dresses hanging in the closet,
the way you stacked the pots and pans
in the cabinet beside the stove.
For a moment, I thought I’d found them
behind the dog’s brown eyes
when he put his paw on my knee
while I was sitting in your chair,
but he was only wondering
when dinner would be served, and afterward
lay down on the rug across from the door
that leads to the garage, his nose pointed
in the direction of your anticipated arrival,
where he proposes to remain
in case you return.