Sometimes my father’s hand shakes, sends fat drops
of paint to splatter my patio.
He’s fond of this work, and I like the way
this man feels in the sun, healthy and honest
and responsible. I work next to him
on the shorter ladder, my hair sticky
against my neck. He says, This heat’s a bitch.
I say, Wears my ass out. I’d like more talk,
but it’s too hot, too hot to wrap our mouths
around vowels, urge consonants into
the air. We’ll finish my house by Saturday,
my father will go home, live through another
familiar summer in his own backyard.
We both know he’ll never be back, that this
job is his last large gift, that he will tell
my mother about the heat, tell her
this paint will last seven years at most,
that he worries about who will help me
next time, who will work beside me in the sun,
who will love me in ways simple as sweat.