The man who built it told her:

“We’ll stain it walnut like the fireplace

we made love to in Nantucket

the year we found this shell”


Her lasting memories were of cigar smoke,

Scotch and the cancer in his throat


The new owners painted it green,

“to match the sofa

We’ll call it the ‘Green Room’

and read here in the evenings”


The green colored every other color,

what they dreamed, what they said,

and they quarreled every night in the Green Room

until all color between them fought for light


The last couple splashed it with hasty coats

of a pale white then in vogue

barely hiding the old green mess

but allowed the drapery to flow

Guests in silk dresses and imported heels

deposited coffee rings, cigarette burns

and a long deep scratch on the mantle’s top


“I want a new house,” she insisted,

and they moved from house to house

leaving closets stuffed with boredom


Now newlyweds scrape and sand

through stain, oil paint and char

as close as they can get to bare oak

where grain edges into seashore,

where they laugh at a young man’s grumbling

at his loss of days off and erotic afternoons

at the hands of foolish men

too busy or too drunk to undress their wives

on an heirloom rug in front of a real fire