Rowhouse basement a shambles. Rusted husks
of BX cable coil round everything—appliances,
copper tubing, hot water heater. Frayed wires
stick out of each like furry tongues, lapping at
boxes and curled-up slugs of insulation.
Borowski attaches porcelain russels to joists,
zigzagging the whole way from front to back.
All jobs guaranteed, he says, been working
in the neighborhood thirty years. Even took time
off a big-payer, a city job, to change a lightbulb
for an old lady, Lithuanian, not even a customer.
He misses the days when he strutted as a mummer,
marching in the Fancy Brigade, every year his wife
stitched a new costume, their extra bedroom still
a sift of dyed feathers, gold trim, satin.
Borowski misjudges his customers.
He thinks they’re part of the college-educated crowd
rehabbing the old workingman’s Victorians
built for millworkers and their burgeoning families
in the twenties. So you’re not gonna pay me,
he shouts, is that what you’re drivin at? You should’ve
given us an estimate first, they shout back.
Borowski crosses the threshold, furious and shaking
His eyeballs seem mounted on extendible shafts,
spinning like aircraft propellers. He hasn’t had
a drop in eighteen months. The homeowner’s wife
joins the deliberations. Bursting
into the final stages of pregnancy, she leans
against the doorframe, backlit, her hands
clasp on the shelf of her belly.
Maybe we can come to an agreement, she says.
Borowski, whose name means of the forest, turns
his head like a bison acknowledging a stone-age hunter.
He gazes at his battered, unmarked van
parked out front. He does this to avoid the shot
he’d like to take. He does this to keep from being pelted. Leonard Kress lived in and around Philadelphia for more than 35 years–Port Richmond, Fishtown, Harrowgate, Franford, etc. Now he lives in the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. His latest collection of poetry is ORPHICS, from Kent St. U. Press.