Reading My Living Room Floor Like Tea Leaves

I’ll have to get down on my hands and knees to pick up / the multitudinous pieces...

Reading My Living Room Floor Like Tea Leaves
Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar / Unsplash

by Katherine Riegel

The dog got anxious again and shredded a catalog we left on the coffee table

for just this purpose, strewing irregular bits of colored paper

across the floor. Plus-sized sweaters in awful turquoise and fuchsia

leer from muted beige swiped with rust and sage, a rug

purchased specifically to hide dirt and dog hair and the occasional spilled tea.

Clothes in my size are almost always ugly, as though

loving chocolate means you can’t want to look decent,

and though I generally don’t care because I’m sporting dubious spots

of canine drool and don’t have anywhere to go anyway, I will never

wear fuchsia even if the damned world is ending. Soon

I’ll have to get down on my hands and knees to pick up

the multitudinous pieces, as the fancy German vacuum

I bought in a rare moment of financial windfall

has a delicate throat not suited to paper, and because my back

and various other body parts squeal when I do this

for a moment I contemplate ordering one of those long-handled sticks

with a lever for grabbing what’s beyond reach

and getting it delivered for, let’s face it, I’m not

lazy but I am continually tired, my energy worn down to the cords

by an immune-chewing illness I contracted at the fresh age

of twenty-one. Most days I’m faking it worse than

the models in that catalog who pretend to be delighted

by their homely clothes and bullet-proof bras, probably stuck

listening to the photographer say they’re lucky to be big girl models

because they don’t have to diet, when they’re thinking they still

have to keep themselves just the right side of size 16

and never lose that hourglass shape. Today I hauled myself up

off the couch and crossed the room and for a moment

I discerned a shape in the bits of paper:

a scale, the old kind with the hanging platforms

to weigh coins, and I thought about what we do to balance

should with need, who the screens tell us to be with who we are,

and if we have to rip something up to get through the day and eat some of it too

then so be it, chance cages us too often and living is messy.

Katherine Riegel’s lyric memoir about her sister, Our Bodies Are Mostly Water, is forthcoming from Cornerstone Press in summer 2025. She is also the author of Love Songs from the End of the World (Main Street Rag Press)the chapbook Letters to Colin Firth (Sundress Publications), and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in BrevityThe Gettysburg Review, One, Orion,, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at