Residence, Laramie, Wyoming

If we think of time as a bolt
of cloth we cut swatches from, blue
cotton that begins its immediate slow

fray, then for a moment you were
the newest well-built thing in the world:

the perfect angle of your peaked roof,
unwarped frames of your windows,
glass so clear it almost isn’t there.

Then those who planned you hanged
white curtains, arranged the furniture—

the kitchen table with its smooth
wood legs, the brown leather loveseat
against a dustless living room wall.

The closets grew gray suits, a patterned
morning dress with sunflowers, the yellow

still brilliantine and deep twenty years
before it faded to unripe lemon rind.
And the bassinet in the nursery upstairs

a room whose walls they papered
with cartooned race cars. As the body does,

when it’s allowed to grow old, the bones
of the house will eventually begin to creak,
the plumbing to lose its constant wrestle

to contain the push of water
like blood through clogging arteries. But

Matthew, that much is the future: as the painter
puts away his brush, canvas filled with another
well-made thing, the house you grew up in

with its green lawn and shrubs spreading
forever out of the frame, no one knows but he

how they will beat you and string you up
like a painting on a cattle fence outside Laramie.
No one knows you will not live. No one knows

how many will say it could have been me.

From Tell Me Exactly What You Saw and What You Think It Means (SCE Press, 2021) by Steve Bellin-Oka. Copyright © 2021 by Steve Bellin-Oka. Used with the permission of the poet.