Maintenance for the Heartbroken

by Adam Vines

Consider the houses we put together,
the maintenance we do and don’t do,
the rotten eaves replaced, the shutters
that a friend half-scraped three years ago
before the night took him back
to needling that vein he thought he’d closed.
Consider the toilets we spray with blue
then flush down, the ball of our love’s hair
we snake up from the shower drain
and lift in a pinch of nape
as if it were a mouse. Consider what we see now
at 2:00 AM in the kitchen, the grout
we might or might not finally clean; the bond
that holds this floor together will remain,
soiled or not, we know. Consider the neighbor’s generator
still chugging after they have long gone to bed,
though the power to our houses is back on.
Consider the meat and milk that didn’t go bad.
We will hear the engine sputter and cease before dawn.
Consider the storm that dumped nine inches
of snow in Lubbock, Texas today, yes, Texas.
Consider the woman in Montana tonight,
curled into the hollow spoon of her husband
after telling him of her affair.
Consider her lover as merely a context
for another repair because that’s all that he
and the husband can bear for him to be.
Consider finding ourselves not as agency
but as a slow cracking of our shells
from the weather of our lives,
a seam of flesh exposed that speaks the whole:
two almost-innocent glances that miss for years
intertwining one sticky night over drinks with friends,
or a sand dune that takes its shape
when the clouds drift, allowing the moon
to untuck its light. Consider how the clouds
seem to occupy the same space
as that moon, despite their distance,
how we distinguish liquids, solids, gases
by their properties, their distances apart,
the way they veil and unveil themselves to us,
though, at times like tonight, we find
in our chests that they must be compliant
to their elemental change
but at their core are just the same.


ADAM VINES is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is editor of Birmingham Poetry Review. He is the author of Out of Speech (LSU Press, 2018) and The Coal Life (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) and coauthor of Day Kink (Unicorn Press, 2018) and According to Discretion (Unicorn Press 2015) His recent poems have appeared in Southwest Review, The Hopkins Review, Ecotone, Five Points, Green Mountains Review, 32 Poems, and The Greensboro Review.