PAINT JOB, JULY 2001
The house painter strips window frames with a buzzing sander,
takes his heat gun to a decade of vanished snow, peels off
the day I met you, the night I first slept here.
He removes the woman who lived here with five sons
and nailed the French doors shut. He pries loose her accountant husband,
sends him curled in shreds to blue plastic tarp covering the rose bushes.
The air is feathered in white paint. On the front porch,
hundred-year-old pine planks blink in the sun.
Inside, windows closed against sawdust and the smell of burnt matches,
we hear the housepainter thumping and scraping.
He has located your father's death, my mother's cancer.
Hasta la vista, baby, he cries, shooting tiny nails into fresh molding.
When he breaks for lunch, his partner's radio wails,
I've been cheated, been mistreated; when will I be loved?
By three o'clock in the afternoon, the sky runs over itself in white.
The house painter clatters down his aluminum ladder.
There is nothing more to watch. The neighbor's screen door bounces shut.
Our house has turned into a big, blonde baby.
Everything we have ever known gathers in the front yard
like thunder clouds no one predicted.
You and I brush off porch chairs, knock paint chips out of bent geraniums.
A storm stomps in from the west, blowing newspaper into the street.
We watch it with the front door open despite warnings
to take shelter in a strong building, far from windows.
We are not afraid. The future's still sealed in shiny cans
under the basement stairs: toxic, flammable, the perfect color.
Nyack, New York
High school English teacher; tower chime ring at St. Peter's Westchester Square, NYC
Artemis Review, Can We Have Our Ball Back, Full Circle, Snakeskin, Eclectica
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