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Strange place I resist calling home—squat
           on gray-painted brick foundations,
                       only the top half of the siding

in a fresh coat of pale yellow;
           the rest, surrounding the tucked door
                       to the right, flaking like mammoth dandruff.

Four blistered black mailboxes,
           all unnamed, the mossy gaps
                       in the leaning rail, and above it,

hanging off box nails: two fist-sized pots
           hold faded geraniums—
                       both plastic and weightless

as they sway like spent debutantes.
           They match the green porch carpet,
                       its rents along the edges

of the top step, and the kale-like curls
           along the wall where it touches
                       my new front door.

I've been cleaning this place winter-long,
           immersed in abrasion, in wiping
                       foot-rails with damp terry cloths.

Now each doorknob is polished—
           brass, pewter and Bakelite.
                       Each shade, globe and shield

unscrewed from its fixture
           and the paper-like moths rinsed out,
                       ribbons of settled dust

removed from the tops of doors.
           Paint stains, large, looking like pigeon
                       droppings, scraped off tiles,

and the kitchen's grimy linoleum
           now bleached into paleness. And, as I bend
                       and rise, my hands as if in oblation,

mimicking death and resurrection,
           I trace dirt and clay settled in the grout,
                       cobwebs that waver complicit in corners.

Back and forth with the heel of my palm
           I try to remove time from the worn carpet,
                       restore something in this house

perched over the two-lane road—
           uneven, rough, like sore taste buds—
                       where trucks continually pass

and with them these camphor-white ceilings
           and the single panes shudder.
                       Only traffic romps in here.

And across the street, children cry
           above this noise, learn to know
                       their voices. And as I quietly wash,

all over again, each door in warm soap,
           my hands wipe away the six hundred miles
                       between us, remember the borrowed houses

that hid us, hushed the billowing
           inside them. I think of how right now
                       someplace boats are leaving their docks,

how easily they move—like the lifting
           of eyelids, the sound of dawn, like breathing.
                       And with my hand sunk

into the wet sponge, I rub the doorframe,
           firm as the curves of your shoulders,
                       and I clean, and we move together again.

Andrea Jurjević

Small Crimes
Anhinga Press

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