My father lived on and off with a woman
for several years. They would share
drinks for months, then each would become unclear
about whether the other was good enough
or bad enough to keep.
During one of the “on again” stints,
her son sat in a chair at the kitchen table,
put a gun in his mouth,
had the will to follow through.
The knotty pine caught most of the death,
and it was my father who relieved
the wood of its burden. Scrubbing
the wall, running rags into the grooves
and channels of the panels then dipping
them into the bucket of warm
Pine-Sol solution. Each rinse and wring
tinting the milky fluid a deeper pink,
adding more bits and pieces
to slush on the bottom,
like gold flakes in a miner’s pan.
There was never an “off again”
after that. My father based
his handyman business in the house,
a man who couldn’t even glue his family together.
He died in one of its small bedrooms,
before I could tell him
that his work in the kitchen that day
was perhaps his best.