A quiet akin to ruins—
another contracted hillside, another split-level
fretting the gloaming with its naked beams.
The workmen have all gone home.
The blueprints are curled in their tubes.
The tape measure coils in its shell.
And out he comes, like a storybook constable
making the rounds. There, where the staircase
stops short like a halting phrase,
there, where a swallow circles and dips
through the future picture window, he inspects
the premises, he invites himself in.
There he is now: the calculating smacks
of a palm on the joints and rails,
the faint clouds of whispered advice.
For an hour he will own the place.
His glasses will silver over as he sizes up
the quadrant earmarked for the skylight.
Back then, the houses went up in waves.
He called on them all; he slipped through walls.
Sometimes his son had to wait in the car.
So I always know where I can place him
when I want him at one with himself, at ease:
there, in the mortgaged half-light;
there, where pinches of vagrant sawdust
can collect in his cuffs and every doorframe
welcomes his sidelong blue shadow;
anywhere his dimming form can drift at will
from room to room while dinner's going cold—
a perfect stranger, an auditioning ghost.
Copyright © 2006 by David Barber. Published 2006 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.