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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.

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