In science class we learned
the hottest point of steam
is at the tip of the teapot spout—
where streams of swelling heat
           rupture the cooler air.

After school, I do my homework
          upstairs in my room.
My kid sister murmurs
          playing family on her own.

When the clock clicks four
the stacks of the factory moan,
and the sky
         gets smudged with smoke.

Our dad works there.
He’ll hit the bars along the way
         and then be home.

Mom picks up her pacing
across the kitchen floor;
adjusts the thermostats again
          in the rooms below.

Maybe today, she’ll have
a kind word for wrath;
or have made some extra cash.
Or maybe, she’ll just sit with him
and a beer
          ‘til dinner is served.

The front door slams.
I look out the window
          and click on the news.
They say there’s a chance of
          storms rolling in;
another station says
          it may be clear.

John Middlebrook lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he manages a consulting firm focused on non-profit organizations. He has been writing since he was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where he also served on the staff of Chicago Review. His work has been published by Cleaver Magazine, Wilderness House Literature Review, Synchronized Chaos, and The Lake among others.

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