Again I set aside half the day
to put another coat on the pool deck,
again the gloves, again the stain can
and the beer can, fingers only half
an ache because I passed the brush
between hands each twenty strokes,
one useful thing my father taught me
while I whitewashed the hall steps
in the row house I left half my life ago,
house of nicotine and dog hair,
house he left us alone in
on a street of houses rotting
against each other like teeth,
house so far from our half-acre
I have to squeeze my eyes to see it—
ripped linoleum, cracked walls,
dirt cellar of rats and mold,
nights of yelling behind doors. . .
Half a life later I’m trying to get
to the next day, after the deck dried,
when we swam in finally blue water.
I'm trying to work the float into this,
and the inner tubes, the handstands,
the red and yellow beach ball.
Enough about my long dead father,
food stamps, government cheese.
What about my wife asleep
cross-legged in the Adirondack chair,
my daughter's brilliant pink suit,
the gray fox panting at the woods' edge?
And what about how cold the beer was,
how bright the sun over the crabapple tree
when I sank to the soundless bottom
and watched my daughter's kicking?
Lucky are those who make it through
doors just before the locks click shut,
who turn corners and lose the way back.
Lucky those who get new starts:
Richard Wright after Memphis,
Dylan at Royal Albert Hall,
Raskolnikov crying at Sonia's knees,
so ashamed he cannot look up.