Wednesday, September 7, 2011

P.S 43 \ The Man Who Never Stopped Painting His House

Nancy:  I was only thrown out of school in disgrace twice in my life.  My Mama was “mortified,” a good word I don’t hear much anymore.
P.S. 43
I was smiling when I handed Miss Hoffman
the rat.  I had carried it as I did my roller
skates, by the tail, the weight of it swinging
beside my leg.  My daddy said there was a 
Book of Knowledge all around me and I was
delighted with the rat, and wanted to know:
why was its tail scaly?  why were its teeth
orange?  And no one stopped me as I carried
the rat up the steps, through the Girls door,
down the hall and into the room.
I smiled.  Miss Hoffman screamed.  I knew at
once.  We were not going to open my Book
of Knowledge.  Not then  Not there.  No, NO,
NO, not in Miss Hoffman’s classroom.
Alan: How many houses do we all pass by, year after year, with no one ever around, a mystery made stranger by whatever thin thread of a story we can give to it?
The Man Who Never Stopped Painting His House
On the way to town lived a man
who never stopped painting his house.
We’d see it summers as we jounced
the six miles in from camp for groceries or gas:
scaffold in place, planks that over humid weeks
rode down, minutely, as the new white covered old,
clapboard by clapboard.
                                                    My mom, hinting some moral
only she could parse, told us each year the story.
He’d had a heart attack – the doctor’d warned him
never to exert.  A little chill rippled
the back seat of our car.
                                                   So he painted his house
endlessly, too poor or clogged with Yankee pride
to hire it done: a saint of perseverance
or a fool.  We never saw him out and yet
the work went on.
                                                   One year it was finished,
down to the dark trim, the ladders gone.
He died before Fall: the realtor’s sign went up
but didn’t linger: an easy sell, so neat and so well kept.