Kathleen Kirk


by Kathleen Kirk

The Floor Scrapers

Gustave Caillebotte, Les Raboteurs de parquet (1875)


We got down on our hands and knees, once,
to sand the floors. I won’t say we’ve fallen
out of love, or c’est la vie. Bonne chance
to these naked backs, strong arms—so pale

in the delicate leftover light of afternoon.
Smell the sweat? The fine shavings, varnish
unleashed from its odorless routine?
In the middle of the room the oak is fresh.

I’m not saying marriage should be work.
Just give me a sip from that bottle of red wine. 
One is asking the other for a break.
They are brothers. See? Shoulders, hairline.

I can’t help being born bourgeois. Nor you,
not. Nor should we blame Caillebotte.
And there are many ways of being true.
If we renew our vows, they needn’t be rote.

Listen to me now when I tell you how
important this is. See the progress they’ve made?
Already half done. Écoutez. Almost like new.
I can even taste the cool metal blade.


Kathleen KirkKathleen Kirk is the author of four poetry chapbooks and the poetry editor for Escape Into Life, an online adventure dedicated to visual and literary arts. Her work appears in a variety of print and online magazines, including Comstock ReviewSweetPoetry East, and Umbrella, and she is the winner of the 2011 Ekphrasis Prize for a poem published in Ekphrasis.

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