Home Improvement, Parts 1 and 2






Home Improvement, Part 1

Home Depot makes me weep.
I travel down aisles like a tourist
in the kingdom of tools
as I look for an extension cord,
a rake, lawn bags—
things you took with you
when you left for good.
I push the metal cart,
quiet as a carriage,
along the hardest of cement floors,
so unforgiving it makes my back ache.
Look at all that needs replacing:
wrenches, screws, a drill.
I reach for caulk to rim the bathtub,
a fluorescent light to replace
the burned-out halo
that flickers above my head
as I move about the kitchen.
There is no permanence
in these objects,
but a sort of emptiness
from what remains.
How unfair
to be in this big-box store
with its sky-high shelves,
and rows and rows of normal.


Home Improvement, Part 2

Friday nights are the best nights to meet men
at Home Depot. I travel down the aisles like a tourist
in the kingdom of tools looking for a weekend warrior,
someone a full score younger helping to re-stake
a friend’s fence post, or building a rocking horse for his niece.
I need wrenches, screws, a drill—things taken when my ex
left for good.
                         Home Depot, home of the handy,
the amateur professional, and me with my Hi,
can you help me? look. Give me the guy
with the ratty college T-shirt, slim build, and galvanized grip,
a real DIY-er with the I-haven’t-shaved-in-two-days grin.
Can you help me? I need hardware to mount
my flat screen. The smell of cedar is everywhere.
I’m fingering an edger in a wall full of edgers.
And what about spackle?
                         I need a sledgehammer.
Walls torn down and put back up. A fresh coat of paint
on new life. How unfair to be in this normal store
with its rows and rows of beautiful. I need a satin finish.


January Gill O’Neil, “Home Improvement” (Parts 1 and 2) from Misery Islands. Copyright © 2014 by January Gill O’Neil. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of CavanKerry Press, Ltd. All rights reserved.

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014) and Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). She is executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and teaches at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. More from this author →