Cracks are inevitable as wrinkles
in an old house that’s been slowly settling
these seventy years
hairline cracks spiderwebbing walls,
pressure cracks spanning ceilings
wide as frozen lakes,
a few jagged lightning bolt cracks
descending on arches and windows.
To repair a crack well, you must first widen it.
Gouge out the loose plaster with probing tools,
scraping away old layers of paint that record
the changing styles of lost decades.
Cover the cracks with fiberglass mesh,
then work the plaster rhythmically,
feathering the angle of the plaster knife,
laying the swath in smooth motions….
As you work, Chopin mazurkas on the stereo
insinuate themselves into the wet plaster.
Your arm motions fall into three-quarter time,
and the work becomes something
more like dance.
Arm strokes blend into arm strokes,
working the plaster, the mind blank as a wall.
Hours pass. The piano seems an echo
of eternity beckoning
as you work on the house, and the house
works on you.
Forever after, you see plastered surfaces
as frozen artifacts of muscular motion,
and, sitting in the quiet of the room,
you can hear faint mazurkas
echoing in the walls.
From Wild Apples (Parallel Press, 2004).
Used with the author’s permission.