A new poem by Jesse Eckerlin

How to Repossess a House

For Mitchell

So much for the rot-freckled poplar the experts said you could salvage,
an easy home renovation a single amateur could manage. Likewise
the varnish you opted to scavenge from the Salvation stockpiles,
some shellacquered bandage to taper the damage. What nobody’d
guessed at was that it was worse than cosmetic: you blundered
for hours on those derelict floorboards. When I came over evenings,
your place stunk worse than an oil rig. You’d lathered more poultice

than a sleep deprived barber & were waiting for that shit to shimmer –
to bypass the losses ensconced in the network. But as I feared, the stuff
was dud. You’d spilled buckets of sweat on that lustreless crud. You got pissed
& flipped, insisted you’d kill the cunt who pulled the dumb stunt, & I watched
for the errant slip of the razor. Still, I kept my cool when things got more hectic:
as kids I’d always owned your ass at Tetris. I asked if you recalled an old trick
of our father’s: how he’d matador the tablecloth of its extravagant spread. With one

calibrated swish of the wrist he’d free that heirloom cape from its China-built
namesake, without so much as rocking a plate. You confessed you recalled,
and what’s more, often called into question the medium behind the magic.
I’ve had the carpet swept up from under me so many times by now, you said,
that I think I must be standing on hardwood. I nodded, and you saw that I understood.
You pointed to where the pipes had been leaking of late, and I handed you a bucket.

We went out for a smoke and I batted off the black flies as you abandoned the project.