these dusty rooms & musty halls
of broken bones & battered walls --
I return with mop & brush & broom
to sweep the fear
from these empty rooms,
to clear the corners of hope
ground into dust;
I return because the landlord
says I must repaint.
repaint, repaint, repent
for all the years I spent
hiding in your arms, hiding from your hands
hiding from my own screams & broken dreams
& disillusioned plans, my hands
held up to protect me
from the light the fight the night,
what you said was your God-given right --
the paintbrush slaps like a hand
on the face of the wall:
repent, repaint, red paint
to cover it all.

I could paint a portrait in shades
of blue & black & green,
the colours I've seen
in the mirror on my face,
in this bleeding place
where lust & hate ran amok
& replicated one cheap bad fuck
with the neighbours banging
on the bedroom walls
& giving me soft sad stares
when they'd pass in the halls
'cause your voice
drowned out their pity,
drowned out their fear,
drowned out my screams
so no one would hear
what went on inside the space
you said was yours & mine alone,
I could never call it a home
these four walls of flesh & broken bone
where your thighs were guns
& your fists were stones.

gold circles on our fingers
silver circles on your wrists,
a circle of light 'round your head --
the crucifix fell when you missed me
& hit the wall,
left a mark that even paint
cannot erase.
we made Jesus fall from grace --
repaint, repaint this bleeding place.

& even now these walls echo your name;
even now these rooms smell of shame.
a black fly gets hit
by a drop of red paint:
I paint over it carefully
to make sure it dies
'cause no one should live
with blood in their eyes,
no one should live
with a lump in their throat.
you held me up by the throat:
crucified, like a butterfly,
like a fly on the wall
I was so scared
you'd let me go
& I'd fall
at your feet & you'd beat
God & glory into my arms & head --
don't even ask
if I might have been better off dead,
but between the loneliness of flesh
& the sadness of bone
being with you was better, then,
than being alone.
the paintbrush slaps like a hand
on the face of the wall --
repent, repaint, red paint
to cover it all.

& all I wanted to do was to hold you
up against the wall,
our voices echoing down the hall,
to do to you what you did to me
to fuck you back
to make you see
me down on my knees,
praying to God, "please
let us return to friendship, or at least
some semblance of ecstasy."
but you see, you and me will never be
anything but "the bastard" & "the slut",
at least to each other.
were you ever my lover?
were you ever my friend?
& I wonder where you are
& I wonder how you've been
& I pray
to the Father, the Son & the Holy Ghost
that I will never see you again.
the paintbrush slaps like a hand
on the face of the wall --
repent, repaint, red paint
to cover it all.

& even now I am never quite alone.
in bars, in cars, in stores stares stars,
in every crowded space, on every city bus
I catch glimpses of your face,
& in my mind I find the two of us
back in this bleeding place.

    Father forgive us
- Susan Cormier, Cracking Bones. 2001. Posted with permission.

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