New England Style, Move-In Ready

by André T. Demers

The floors slope
from east and west towards the center beam of the house.
Four pine wedges had been hammered between
the lateral joists and the main support to bridge the gap
as if the builders had said,
close enough.

It was 1917,
and close enough was enough
for carpenters
who would fall
retreating under German shells at the
Second Battle of the Marne
because they were lost in the smoke
and had never learned what a straight line was.

They left nails underneath the molding
so that I could bleed, too,
as I was sweeping the vinyl floor cloths
we found
rolling back the carpet
in silence.
My heel, stung, a drop of blood
on the floor with the dust
and toast crumbs of the generations.

But we lifted the tools of pride
and kept working
as if it would ever end,
as if each coat of paint made the room larger,
as if the horseshoe,
pointsdown above the lintel,
was spilling our luck onto the ground.