Poetry: Kevin Stack

Iron Head Boards

As I lie there on my side
I can see the wall and the aged paint job,
bronzed with the sun’s palette.
Leaning on the wall is the bed frame
we’ve lived with for the three years
that we’ve been here in this apartment.
The last person to live here, Mark,
(I know this because we still get his mail)
must have left them for lack of wanting to
move them.
The frames are after all, iron, cumbersome,
and lacking the cross posts that would suspend a mattress.
This lack is why we’ve never used them.
So they sit, in their last coat of paint, white, the head board
leaning against the wall and his mate,
the footboard, leans against him.
Some of the paint on the railings is worn away right
where Mark’s pillows would have been.
And judging from the height of the wear
and tear, Mark must have propped himself
up in the manner I do, to read
in this afternoon light that lights
this corner apartment right up.
Perfect for a couple pages before a nap.
He probably also read at night, before bed.
I remember, as an early teenager, how my
Saturday mornings were spent reading page after
page, an appetite that occasionally returns.
Mark might have read at this time too.
Those head boards, however,
serve a different purpose
for us.
We hang our towels on them after showers.
They handle drying the sheets,
act as a coat rack,
they hold our sleep blindfolds,
a belt,
the going-out purse
the nightshirt.
Right now they’re even holding
Nora’s respirator mask.
We rarely sweep behind them and the
dust bunnies gather among those iron
trunks, forming warrens and hiding from
the cats that patrol for elastic hair ties
and stray dental floss.
They are heavy, fit for a queen mattress,
and have an arc, suspended by vertical posts, capped and
joined by ornate iron flowers.
We thought at first of selling them
to an antique store,
but like many things they were saved
by our lack of follow through.
And so here they are now
and as we begin our search for
a new place here in this city,
I lie on my side and look at them
and wonder of their fate:
will they make it with us?
Faithful servants,
left behind for the next tenant
to consider,
left with one another,
for the long haul.
One would be wise to take
a cue from them:
they are literate, hard-working,
compatible, tough and patient.
They don’t make a peep
and invoke in me thoughts
about the living.
A great feat for iron and paint
curve and post.