Pop sanded and stained hardwood floors
until his spine revolted, until the chemicals
had seeped into his bloodstream and cracked
his calloused hands. Because of his bulging
bags of dust, because of all those years of steering
those monstrous motors, with their punishing
decibels like a thousand rawhide belts
whipping at once against the boards,
because his work had induced
a constant ringing in his eardrums,
that same tinnitus as Van Gogh,
I could never work quite hard enough
even though I rode my bike at midnight
at twelve years old, to return from the scalding
plates and sauce pots, garbage cans and mops
of that Italian restaurant, even after years of carrying
bag after bag of Portland cement and flats of asphalt
shingles on my shoulder, even as I honored him
with a burning back and stooping gait—
his suffering...

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