PAPERHANGER WALKING HOME IN FAIRFIELD, IOWA

Walking home from work  blood drained from my hands
the sky burning down  the ends of streets.
There are rainbows in the gutter from worn out Chevrolets
and I am walking toward the fire.

Ahead two teen-aged girls with humps already forming on their backs.
Their heavy breasts look left and right before they cross the street
and I watch them as a carp would watch the changing of the sky
through stagnant water.

Now we are putting distance between ourselves.
Their words are chewed like crackers in the grinding teeth of the wind.
My shadow follows me as a widow would her only child
and waves to other widows  on the street.

I turn left where a brutal wind is shouldering through blue collar shade trees in a row.
The oaks and older maples can ignore it
but slender Chinese elms are bent as frail men by recession to their knees.
I spit out the toothpick I am chewing. It hits me in the face and I walk on.

Through a window on my right a woman and her poodle dog both with hair
the color of a sleeping pill are watching.
Both are driven mad by foreign cars just out of reach.
This world is out of reach beyond the glass we all are looking through
as I walk on.

When I get home my boy is in the yard, the color on his cheeks like hot rod flames
his eyes like wire wheels.
My daughter’s face  is made up as a sunset burning in the street but I am here
to keep that fire contained.

This night I go to bed but cannot sleep.
I go outside to watch a woman brushing out her hair in yellow light next door.
In the upper window of the house bent forward from the waist
she lets her hair fall down between her legs as  apple trees in other yards
let down their fruit but not for me.

Her room was once a child’s.
On the papered walls are owls with one eye open
one eye closed.
I go back in and shut the door but not to sleep.
The kitchen faucet leaks in rhythm with my heart.
In the street some local vandals are going home to put their baseball bats away
and sleep with flecks of headlights shattered in their hair.

Again I go outside to watch the moon
to feel the dust of stars exploding at the end of night.
It rattles on my window panes and settles on my shoulders as
the better  world to come.

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