Poem: Cracks in the plaster

Sometimes a poem is very literal and serves to capture a moment or experience. Sometimes it’s a metaphor. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both.

Photo via Pixabay

Cracks in the plaster

There are cracks in the plaster.
Sometimes I stop, and stare, and
fret over them.
The carpenter says not to worry,
the house has good bones,
it won’t fall.
But I see the cracks,
long and jagged,
like a tiger raked its claws across flesh
and left behind wounds that
leak the house’s life.
It’s normal, contractors say.
Old houses wear and weather and tremble and groan.
They get a few stretch marks,
a few scars.
The structural engineer says there’s no need
for him to come.
It’s just cracks, not an imminent risk of collapse.

Just cracks.

So we patch and conceal and hide them,
pretending they were never there.
Out of sight, out of everyone’s mind
except mine.
When I run my fingers over the fresh paint,
I can still feel them, faintly,
leaving behind a ridge like a scabbed-over scrape.
I wonder at the cause,
the root behind the symptom,
and ask without answer if it
will continue to worsen,
if there’s a hidden disease that will
eat through studs and joists and beams
like cancer through skin and organs and bones
until the ceilings crumble and the
walls buckle like weary knees,
until it’s too late,
the whole structure beyond repair.

All because we dismissed the cracks in the plaster.


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