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Since I’ve been gone

I don’t have a key anymore,
so I peer through the windows
to see how much worse
things have gotten.
I still have to pick my way
carefully over the porch
where cans of paint huddle together
and pieces of scrap lumber
are still waiting for someone
to pry the nails out of them.

I remember the first to go
was the heat, then the hot water,
then even the toilet seat disappeared.
He joked that we still had TV,
but there was almost no reception
and the monstrous dusty glassy eye
usually teetered darkly
on a makeshift pedestal of broken VCRs
he was going to get around to fixing
one of these days.

Inside, piles of tools and clothes
lie on one of two chairs and the floor.
I don’t know if they are the very same
as back when, and I don’t suppose it matters.
Masking tape-wrapped coils
of dirt-colored carpet,
none of them more than two feet wide,
lean against a strangely orderly
stack of hollow-core doors
still encased in stiff plastic.

There’s an old metal smell
where I press against the screen,
and I know there’s going to be
a faint red grid embossed on my nose
for a little while after.

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