We hire guys who drywall, paint, and spackle.
We hire guys who arrive in hazmat suits to pry up the asbestos.
Inside the air-con ducts, there’s a decade’s worth of dander;
the duct guys snake a hose, wide as a tree, up the south wall,
through a window, and screw it to a ceiling vent. Poof—
outside, in the yard, a three-story grime cloud scatters.The men who come to clean the gutters
find dead squirrels, dead birds, packed inside the rotting sod
like a clan of dolls in one cradle. Elsewhere, plastic saints,
ceramic shamrocks, stacks of old clothes, a rocking horse,
a walking stick—all left behind. We get rid of it. The ragged rosebushes
we dig up, and pile curbside. Clearing away rancid leaves
and a knee-deep riot of creeping vines, we find a phone,
a ring of keys, and, buried upright under coarse, tough weeds,
a lawn sign from a long-lost presidential campaign.What seems irreplaceable, we set aside,
in case the previous owner ever does call back. Poking around
in the overgrown grass, we find a hunk of cement,
embedded with irregular bits of colored glass
arranged around a pair of handprints, small and big.The girl’s bedroom is now where our son sleeps.
He rolls his fire engines across the windowsill.
Opening a closet door, we find, written inside,
in felt-tip pen, in a child’s hand,
This is the O’Malleys’ house.
The O’Malleys lived here.
Copyright © 2018 by James Arthur
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
James Arthur is the author of Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon, 2012). He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Hodder Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and a Visiting Fellowship at Exeter College, Oxford. Arthur is an assistant professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.
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