At Last, Surrender
BY J. ESTANISLAO LOPEZ
Sanding the drywall of a house behind schedule,
a man across the street calls out to his son who jumps
on a roll of unused chain-link in the front lawn.
The windows begin to brighten as evening rarefies
light. Inside the house, white dust sheds with each
stroke of his sanding pole. It catches, I know, on hairs
all across the body, some specks settling in the lungs:
fine irritants. After work, my father would track it
into the house and shake it from his thinning hair,
its texture on my tongue dryer than chalk.
One evening, he took me to a jobsite far from the city.
When night arrived, it erased every detail of the woods—
the kind of darkness that reaches into memory,
seeking light to swallow. Inside, all the windows
became mirrors, and, looking into one, I studied him
behind and before me, sanding the unfinished walls.
I locked each stroke’s papery timbre somewhere
our past or future could not touch. The dust
fell around us like debris of our shared ghosts.
As we headed home on a country-dark road,
our headlights rendered a small fraction of the world.
Tires upheaved dirt, glowing red. He switched off the radio
when the signal faltered and rolled both windows down,
engine noise swelling as we passed each thicket of trees,
our silence nearly religious—
we borrowed gentleness. We couldn’t speak.