“Green” by Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande


Wanting to sell our house,
my wife and I agreed
against methylene chloride’s
bleed into the ground water,
and so with the first door up
on saw horses, I poured
eco-friendly paint stripper,
remembering our realtor
advising, “People want natural
wood in Victorian homes.”

After six applications,
faint swatches of oak
faded up through the layers,
giving me time to imagine
the twelve other doors.
We wanted better neighbors,
central air, a bigger yard,
and needed to be on the market
before the end of March.
“Most houses sell in April
and May,” our realtor said.

The second can of stripper
annihilated the years of paint,
bubbling up globs of acid mucous
to fly from my scraper, smoldering
to yellow the spring grass
around my blue tarp, leaving
my fingertips and knuckles
simmering like the upper arms
of old men having heart attacks.

My wife and I didn’t talk
about the first can of stripper
we abandoned in the garage
of that house we no longer own.
“They loved your woodwork,”
the realtor congratulated,
and our house sold immediately
and for more than we’d hoped,
which we agreed in the end
was really the important thing.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007


Jeff Vande Zande: “I’m of the belief that poetry, and all literary writing, should be after something. It should tell us a truth about who we are—even if the truth is often ugly. Don’t expect of corporations what you can’t live by in your own life.”

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