The House in Repair
By Marcia Karp
You trained me well. When I first moved back,
I still felt like a guest in your house.
I hired the man you’d hired,
and he kept up the lawn much as he’d kept it for you.
He cut those last-chance hedges twice a summer.
Slowly, I change things.
I painted the house first in pinks
and now in a spectrum of orange and brown,
with the roof the same.
A banker who’d cared that you died
told me the roof was a worry to you,
but I took my time and am glad.
With the old bricking in front, the whole
set into the green that she’d planted around us,
it’s warm and itself and now mine, your house.
I chose beautiful paper for the walls, which was hung
only half-right. I had to buy a new dryer, and did.
My first repair was just after the day,
to the last-hope glass I’d smashed with a rock,
not knowing you put on a bag once the hedges were done.
I’m a PhD now and the work is so sparse
that I cut the lawn and try to, the hedges,
now over my head and my reach.
Ever since the dryer sparked out in a flood,
I’ve hung the washing across the basement.
The new sump pump pumps hard,
and the window it drains through
is patched with some tiling
I can almost place from before.
Something happened during the painting.
The windows now mustn’t be opened;
the old casement cranks barely work anymore.
It’s not what you would have fussed over –
not paint on the to-and-fro arms or too thick at the edges –
but as if once I’d got it burnished,
the house, as I’d done years ago to my peril,
in its passing to me, shuddered,
so to hold in all of the air that sang once out from you.
Copyright © 2020 by Marcia Karp.