Maintenance for the Heartbroken


Consider the houses we put together, the maintenance we do and don’t do, the rotten eaves replaced, the shutters that a friend half-scraped three years ago before the night took him back to needling that vein he thought he’d closed. Consider the toilets we spray with blue then flush down, the ball of our love’s hair we snake up from the shower drain and lift in a pinch of nape as if it were a mouse. Consider what we see now at 2:00 AM in the kitchen, the grout we might or might not finally clean; the bond that holds this floor together will remain, soiled or not, we know. Consider the neighbor’s generator still chugging after they have long gone to bed, though the power to our houses is back on. Consider the meat and milk that didn’t go bad. We will hear the engine sputter and cease before dawn. Consider the storm that dumped nine inches of snow in Lubbock, Texas today, yes, Texas. Consider the woman in Montana tonight, curled into the hollow spoon of her husband after telling him of her affair. Consider her lover as merely a context for another repair because that’s all that he and the husband can bear for him to be. Consider finding ourselves not as agency but as a slow cracking of our shells from the weather of our lives, a seam of flesh exposed that speaks the whole: two almost-innocent glances that miss for years intertwining one sticky night over drinks with friends, or a sand dune that takes its shape when the clouds drift, allowing the moon to untuck its light. Consider how the clouds seem to occupy the same space as that moon, despite their distance, how we distinguish liquids, solids, gases by their properties, their distances apart, the way they veil and unveil themselves to us, though, at times like tonight, we find in our chests that they must be compliant to their elemental change but at their core are just the same.

ADAM VINES is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is editor of Birmingham Poetry Review. He is the author of Out of Speech (LSU Press, 2018) and The Coal Life (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) and coauthor of Day Kink (Unicorn Press, 2018) and According to Discretion (Unicorn Press 2015) His recent poems have appeared in Southwest Review, The Hopkins Review, Ecotone, Five Points, Green Mountains Review, 32 Poems, and The Greensboro Review.