Men are ripping off shingles across the street,
layer after blue, scratchy layer,
wrenching nails and flinging everything down.
The woman who lived there smashed her hip,
and as she was wheeled away-she rolled her eyes
when they told her she’d be home in a week.
She died alone miles from here.
In a new house-do you want to know
who died there, or if they were happy?
I never knew.
The men peel tar paper, toss each other
cans of pop, and clamber to the peak, whooping
with what sounds like joy. My day is lost.
They can see the bridge, the city
rising from the morning mist, the shimmer of water,
and are briefly silent.
In the mountains one summer,
we, too, made a new roof, our mouths full of nails,
Nina Simone on the radio; our tool belts clattering,
we swore we’d never leave.
The men sling blue tarps of trash
toward a truck and miss by a long shot.
Junk in the streets, they whoop again.
My neighbor walks his white dog, lets it pee
on the lavender. If he looked up, he’d see me
twirling a pen, spying.
Because of old, wavy window glass,
outside life is watery-the neighbor,
his dog, the workmen swimming,
the houses floating, a dreamed scene.
When we had nailed the final shingle, a deer
ran beneath us and then a coyote. They circled
the house and ran into the woods, the distance
between them unchanging. Watching was intimate
and awful. It was hard to choose: the deer
who devoured our lettuce or the coyote
with his fierce desire.