by Herb Guggenheim



One Sunday when you're taking out the trash

you realize it's finally gotten too cold for shorts.

So you put on jeans, a flannel shirt, and sneakers,

don your leather jacket, and go out.


Your neighborhood is old; the houses, modest.

The sidewalks and the streets are strewn with leaves.

Smoke is rising from a neighbor's chimney

and the smell of burning wood is in the air.


You head toward the park and take the trail

that parallels the creek. You walk beneath

a canopy of red and orange leaves.

Leaves have fallen all along the pathway

and you listen to them rustle underfoot.


When you get home you notice something strange—

just as you're about to pet the cats,

you see that leaves are scattered on the floor

both in the foyer and the living room.

Your wife is cooking dinner in the kitchen

and leaves are on the floor in there as well.


She doesn't make anything of it,

says she's noticed the leaves

but they don't bother her.

Beyond that she doesn't comment.


The next morning when you wake up

your bed is covered with leaves.

They're like a second blanket

and they go flying everywhere

when you throw back the covers.


Downstairs in the living room

they're at least a foot deep.

Your cats plow through them

and chase each other about

as if nothing in particular is wrong.

The entire house smells like dry leaves.


You go to work.


In the evening

you open your front door

and a cascade of leaves

spills out onto the porch

You wade through them

and find your wife

half buried,

busily answering emails on her laptop.

The cats are asleep on the bookshelf—

the only piece of furniture you can see.



you and your wife clear off the bed

as best you can

and settle in for the night.

But you feel uneasy

and find it hard to rest.


In the morning you go to work.


When you return home

at dusk

you see that the house itself

has become

a house of leaves.


Your wife is standing outside,

wearing her winter coat,

holding the cat carrier in one hand

and her computer in the other.


"We can't live in it now," she says.

"The whole place is made of leaves."


Just then you feel a blast of cold wind

and you watch as your house collapses and scatters.


"We'll have to go to a shelter," you say.


* * *



We wear long gray coats

because it is cold.

Because it is cold,

we make fires in trashcans.

Our coats conceal a lot:

parrots, red and green;

guinea pigs; palm trees;

penguins; roller coasters;

dime novels; conceptual art;

symmetry; super symmetry;

salmon; pornography; farmland;

flat screen TVs; oak trees;

jungles; candy; mosaics;


We are here to get bread.

But when we get it,

the loaves devour us.

We are drawn into their;

yeasty bready breadness.

Our entire culture sustains the bread.

The bread lives and thrives;

whereas, we ourselves are depleted.

The bread takes over the world

and initiates an era of world peace

but we can't enjoy it.

So we put our coats on

and wander through the bread

looking for answers.

But a solar flare has disabled

our satellites and smart phones

and we can't look anything up.



Herb Guggenheim was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. He attended a bunch of school(s) and did a bunch of shit. His poems and short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, The Florida Review, Kalkion, and The Camel Saloon. Recent work has been accepted by The Main Street Rag, Eunoia, and Schlock and will be published sometime in the not too distant future.

His recent book is available here.