Staunch in the Air

Modest 6:55am knock gets a pause,
a pause in which I give
my throat a good clear my
eyes a good wring my
face a little splash when
the searching 6:56am knock
gets an answer, “Oh, yeah! Yep yep!
A second!”

7am, door-jam Smitty,
arms crossed and leaning,
says, “This has got to be
the smallest place,
I’ve ever seen.”
“304 square feet.”
“When’d you move in?”

I’m two valid blinks in
when Wayne, master plumber,
curse-bundle wrenching,
under sink explains to me,

“Oh yeah dude,
you’ve no idea,
I find bodies in the Bean
ALL the time.”
Smitty shifts and casts,
all too familiar
with Wayne’s continue,
“Just earlier this year,
front of the complex —
“THIS complex, this building?”
“Yeah dude! apartment uh –
one six –
little old lady,
dead for like a week,
nobody noticed,
until I knocked,
six, maybe seven times,
and in every knock since
my first find, the thought
has alway-just-kinda crept…
hey, dude, your floor is nice,”
“Yeah? I swept and swept.
Felt bad like I needed a mop,
or a…uh… swiffer.”
“Hah, nah, most people,
it’s like, I’m lying in shit,
groping for their shit,
reaching into their shit,
and, Smitty, shit,
we’re in need,
the pipecutter,
it’s in the tru–
“Sure thing Wayne,
Keep doin’ your thing, Wayne”

Smitty, baby-faced
and quick, no longer
blocks the threshold
separating us, Wayne and me,
from the pale blue hallway,

“Like, nobody
gives two thinks
to the fact!
I’m’unna be there,
fuckin’ bustin’ my ass,
wrenching under sinks,
y’know, dealing in shit!”

When Wayne repositions
for better leverage,
I see his forehead has
gathered fresh impressions
from the wood-frame
beneath my sink,
which’ve hybridized
with Wayne’s own
life-long furrowings.

“How many times, Wayne,”
I wish to ask,
“did you expect to
happen upon the departed,
and, my guy,
how many more times
do you think you will?”

“Anyway, there it was,
staunch in the air.”


“Yeah. Staunch in the air.

I call the cops,
they bust the lock
and it SMELLS, dude,
like really smells.”

Finally some sense:
earlier in the year,
say April, I float in,
buzzin’ like a bee,
give or take midnight.

A gripping scent,
one open, splintering door,
first floor (my floor),
one weary, pacing cop,

a father-daughter quatrain
salting dingy carpet steps,
scanning me, bated breath.

Peering into their eyes, I find
I’m maneuvering a shock
I’ve yet to name, like
the “I’ve just been robbed!”
shock seen so oft.

But now,
reified is the:
“for like a week?!” shock;
the, “I really did mean to call,” shock;
the, “she was still so with it” shock,
and still, say November,
on unit one-six’s
not-so freshly
painted door, is some
chicken-scratch taped:

“Locks changed,
to access unit,
call Jeff.”

Successful Smitty,
guardian once more.
Pipecutters’s cut,
one-six waits,
realtors smile
just down the hall.

“Three or four times!
This building alone,”
Wayne admits,
“Lot of old folks here…
This pipe,” free from the nether,
held to the light,
“been here, for like,
70 years. Is retirement sweet,
old friend?” set gently down,

and Wayne,
with a laugh,
removes my old dishwasher
connects the new,
and as green lights blink,

“let it run
a normal
wash cycle now…
‘cuz sometimes,
after an install,
they gitta
shitload of standing water

and it’s rank, dude,
like real rank…

I’d run it again,
when you get home,
just to be safe.”

Wayne packs up, leaves,
Smitty already gone,
I brush my teeth,
strike down pale blue
through stale, uriniferous air.

A package still stalling
‘gainst unit one-three,
I press on and out.

Wayne calls from his truck,
east-coast accent
staunch in the air

“Once more!
Just to be safe!”

I zag youthful,
catching the train.