House Painting

Forty feet up

On planks, cutting

Straight lines, fast lines, sure and trim.

We worked to finish the South Side

By noon, before the sun would bake

The paint to a cream

Five-gallon surface film,

Cake our brushes

And slow our lines all tacky.

We worked in twos, tag-teaming:

First all four, each two on trim, then separating

One for laps, leading,

And one to follow rolling, back-brushing:

Two on the left and two on the right,

Where we met, feathering.

The first to finish would roll tobacco,

Legs dangling forty feet up,

And smoke, bantering.

And then, all down:

Lower the ladders,

Adjust the jacks,

Empty another

Gallon into the Five and climb.

All four divide, dicing,

Climb two on either side,

Minds wandering the clapboard siding,

The satin finish blinding.

When did days learn boys’ wants so?

To bend and heat their backs to a red umber,

Before each to his high and scut work would go?

Minneapolis, 2007. Self-published in Clay Eyes.

By | 2018-04-24T14:20:59+00:00 August 14th, 2007|Poem|