After black motor oil whet the chinked blade,
Papá planed leftover lumber, groomed the grain
With emery rags, nipped shards, buffed to suede
Every nick and scratch then smeared an oily stain;
Armoire, cupboard, credenza, or stool, each made
To outlast mold’s caprice, rot’s relentless reign—
A cement shed, pawnshop tools, Papá got paid
With cardboard IOU’s but didn’t complain,
Dallied bills, snubbed calls, worried about dirt
Spoiling beeswax, a runny varnish, the hair
That strayed into seamless shellac, while I gave
Succor to fractures, restored scraps, healed the wart
On a lacquered pine leg, vigilant in my care
Of salvaged wood as it bucked the austere lathe.
— Orlando Ricardo Menes (St. Joseph County)
This poem was originally published in Shenandoah 58.1 (Spring 2008). Orlando Ricardo Menes was born in Lima, Peru, to Cuban parents but has lived most of his life in the US. He currently directs the Creative Writing Program at Notre Dame. New poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Callaloo, the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Malahat Review, and West Branch. Recent books are a poetry collection, Furia (Milkweed, 2005), and My Heart Flooded with Water: Selected Poems by Alfonsina Storni (Latin American Literary Review Press, 2009).