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Building the Barn Door

ISSUE:  Spring 1986

It is snowing and your brother,
back from a foreign war, has come
to help build the new sliding barn door.
Wrapped in green parkas you two
first square the frame, 16 by 16, then nail
the cross brace. As you hammer the cheap spruce
boards you think this time he’s all right, the nails refusing
to fly from his hand, his mouth open with words, not
Duck walking down the opposite side,
he says he’s been off the Thorazine
for months, the clear snow shining from his eyes.
It’s nearly zero and a wind down
from the hill but he won’t go in
until he bolts the 2 by 6, the galvanized
guide and runner, until the door rises
to cover the dark mouth of the barn.
He won’t even look at the lights in the house,
the smoke rising from the chimney, until
the handle’s on, the padlock, the rectangle
of rubber cut and tacked to keep the weather
out. Even as you say your feet are numb,
the wind’s driving water from your eyes,
he stomps through the crusted snow, bends
to bevel the door’s edge for the tightest fit.


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