Green Permanent

As you told it to me — our clearest, most reflective conversations
so often then and there, in the middle of the night, staring into
the darkness from wherever the mind has perched in its wanderings — 
you left your mother and the home aide upstairs, and went down
into your father’s basement workroom to look for the right
size screws; in her own wanderings, she has tugged off the front
door lock. Paneled in warped wood and abandoned like a mine,
you find the string for the light in the middle of the room, as he
must have known how to find it in the dark, and again you see
the pegboard walls covered with constellations of polishing tools,
the larger buffers hooked onto the paneling like fuzzy planets,
the smaller ones stuck in a Lucite block he customized to hold them
like the varied moons those hanging planets might need, or a
miniature copse of fantastical trees. So, too, the see-through brick
in which he drilled holes for the array of drill bits themselves,
their swirled metal tops imitating a skyline of onion domes and
tapered gothic towers. The room’s order had been disturbed
by time, and the band saw, jigsaw, the sander, and free-standing
machines, the sized wrenches, pliers, picks, awls, and extra parts
still hanging in their packages, the staple gun, lamps, brushes,
gooseneck magnifying glass, soldering wire, conversion charts,
the hundreds of other disordered tools, they might have been words
in an encyclopedia before you could read more than a few words,
and for you they were part of your father’s speech, or maybe
more like your mother’s now, jumbled, rarely creating a sentence.
With these tools he had sculpted a perfect cluster of grapes,
still on their vine and still with their leaves; a wave, and a school
of dolphins breaching; a formal replica of the Brooklyn Bridge
with all its cabling; a bouquet of flowers — surfaces so smooth
and rounded, objects so like their living counterparts we had no
choice but to understand the power of creation running through
the mind then tools and hands like a current. You looked around
for the right size screws and came upon a small box marked
Green Permanent. And when you opened it you saw small tubes
of paint, now just mud without his attention, you said, holding both
the power of what we do, and the sadness that it has to end.

More Poems by Jessica Greenbaum