The wires between house and garage
could slice you as you fall, ladder a useless
set of rungs; the mailbox could
impale you, so I implore: no
roof chores. When it’s gutter time,
I stand beneath the ladder,
uncertain anchor. My father,
blond child, held his position
as ladder-bracer, even when
my grandfather threw
chunks of gutter-rot down. That’s why
his hair is brown, they joke.
Your hair has darkened, too,
with gray I notice
only up close. I try to forget
the warnings from the nightly news:
melanomas and meningitis,
West Nile virus and high
triglycerides. I hold your ladder
to hold myself steady. Your sweat,
salt-heavy, drips down my cheek,
darkens my shirt. You grunt
with the effort of keeping
our house in order.
My pulse jitters every time
the ladder shifts, and I ignore
the graceful mosquito skittering
on my arm, finding purchase, digging in.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.