I. To Do
Everything around this house is broken — the door, the kitchen window, the flooring, my wife. I dream of nail guns, screws. My heart becomes a level she keeps hiding. I wake and another shingle has fallen into our yard.
I pencil each place I need to shim. This how I show her I’m making us secure: keep out drafts, all nighttime insects. I’m replacing the door. How long until we replace each other, leave faint marks of where we once stood?
I cut my thumb opening the box, imagine my wife saying, oh. I suck the red back into my mouth, slip the window into place. I wipe the panes of fingerprints, specks of blood, catalog what becomes clear: the pot of clematis, scatter of leaves, her on the garden bench. The phone in her hand, how she saves her best laughs for him.
My wife leaves hair twined around shampoo bottles, hieroglyphs of wet curls on the shower walls. I translate each one before picking them away: Woman in Love with Tiny Vortex, Grief of Drowning. When she calls me to unclog the drain, what else can I do but reach inside, untangle all the knots she’s made?
I sweep the debris, pocket a key to a car we don’t own anymore, a green button to my wife’s coat, the one that used to be her favorite. How many things we’ve lost to dust, to stains and rips. The new floor is oak. I lay the planks, tap them secure. She’s bought a pair of black stilettos. I’ll hear her everywhere she goes, feel her walking the spike along my spine.
I plant mahonia for her — yellow flowers which will outlast her winters. Bleeding hearts, shade lovers. My wife watches, touches my shoulder. She says barberry, says ligustrum, nandina. Directions for beauty, for a way back from the landscape we let ruin itself. My hands are dirty, but I keep digging, setting everything in place. She picks up a trowel. We bury the twisted roots until all we see is foliage, the bright tiny blooms.