Alan Feldman: "Repairing the Deck"




Im so much quicker and younger, thinks the mind

while the body tediously bends and kneels with a drill

to back the ten-year-old screws out of their holes,


half of them breaking off, thinned by rust to crumbly

pieces of yarn.  I could do this in my sleep, thinks the mind,

which has already been leaping around, considering the options


while the body has only one option:  turn the boards over

so in the next ten years they’ll dry out on the other side

and curl the other way.  The boards are repenting,


the mind considers.  Nows their chance to flip over

and bare their shadow sides to the snow and sun.

Or, the mind thinks, I am undoing what I once did,


unscrewing my own screws.  With all these boards removed

and the sleepers exposed, the deck looks the way it did 

that spring I came down and built it with our carpenter 


who suffered from light deprivation over the winter

and needed someone else at the work site for companionship. 

But when I built it then, I thought only of the future,


of someday taking the boards up, as the body is now doing.

I didnt think about the past, of being old enough to rebuild 

 the same things I built ten years before, and from here 


the mind goes on to consider Dad, even Grandpa,

and what they were like at this age, and did they

release a breath like an old bellows each time


they bent down and stood up?  (They did.)  But the body

ignores that.  One damn board.  Then another. 

It wants to finish.  Then rest.  A sequence


clear as breathing.  The mind considers its reply

but drifts around the deck, thinking silence is good

for a while.  How free it would be, if—  


keeping to itself—it never had to speak.


Alan Feldman's work has appeared widely—The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, Iowa Review, Threepenny Review etc. His new book is Immortality, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.