Dad blowtorches woodwork, clapboard, door.
Blackens the dilapidated house,
alters the sore exterior
in preparation for paint.
After, he drinks,
I am six when I take butter knives,
pop blisters off,
try to wash the charred and bubbled walls.
For months, a ladder leans
between upstairs bedroom windows.
Mom puts on earrings, brooch,
pins on hope,
pulls courage from
the dressing table drawer.
She outlines lips so downturned corners lift,
pats on determination,
corsets her resolve.
She doesn’t know who owns
our stairways without rails,
linoleum floors, colonnades and sconces,
the bare, lath halls.
Who owns wallpaper like butcher’s wrap
waiting to be stripped.
The lawyer sifts through receipts:
Dad’s trips with Ruth, his gifts to Joyce,
money spent for parties with Pipitsa.
“He sends bills from his ‘retreats’ to you?
What do you live on?”
Annie LaBarge is a poet, artist, and the founder and host of Spoken Word, a reading series for writers and poets. She curated Artists and Poets for the Columbia County Council on the Arts, taught art at Florida State University, Skidmore College, and in FL and NY public schools, and her poems have appeared in La Presa, holding on, letting go, Companions, Laughing Earth Lit, Poetry Bay, and Celebrate Life. Her River Rats and Changing Identity collections remain unpublished. She currently serves as a library trustee in Kingston, NY and teaches tai chi at Bard College.