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Building the Chicken Coop In Wassergass


ISSUE:  Spring 1991
Set off from myself, because of myself,
I pounded the twelve-penny nails,
squared the frame, dropped plumb
lines from each post, tried to make
some sense of my life, setting the windows
in, caulking, trimming, drilling holes
for the 12—2 wires, the 14—2 wires, calling
on my father’s ghost again because there was
no one else, asking him, that broken-backed
drunk who killed himself, for help, asking
How long? What road? Will I die like this,
choking on dust, coughing blood, shuffling
my feet on a cold night by the glare
of a work light while my children, my wife
sleep? Stopping in the center of the chicken
coop, I listened to the hard wind under
the asphalt-runneled roof, stared at the bent
nails and wire scraps on the uneven floor,
tried to catch the slightest note of the
harmonica he’d played back on Olmstead Street,
listened for the tap of his gleaming shoes
as he circled the kitchen table. Nothing.
Just a car swishing down Wassergass Road,
although there’d been no rain, the bull
frog croaking from the pond, and then
the silence I knew I was turning into,
willingly, letting the names fade,
one by one, into the dark beyond the window.

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