Palimpsest—for Jack

by Michael Macklin

Now freshly painted walls
tremble in the hard light of November
with secrets a carpenter
scratched in framing pencil

No moon . . .

Words, little feathers,
that held him up through
his wandering years since a friend
breathed them into his blood.

But the stars . . .

Without understanding, he wrote them
on stair stringers, behind jack posts,
across sill plates and ridge poles.  Imprinted
on the bones of everything he built:

No moon, but the stars . . .

With each letter something quivered
within him.  Every word a flock of sparrows
whose heartbeats were tiny
hammers building something he never saw,

as if No moon,

was a key or code for everything
he did not know. But the stars,
symbols for the heaven he built toward.
This is what he left behind as he packed his tools.

But the morning

After the dust settled and the paint dried,
beyond the well made rooms created for strangers,
he scuffed his work boot way home
wondering what it all means.

No moon, but the stars,
but the morning sky . . .