It starts with stripping,
layer after layer
getting as bare as possible

the surface - it’s necessary
for preservation
to treat the wood first

before restoring it - for hours
he can sand and scrape
in silence.

Something is wrong
with me, according to him,
and he’s right, of course -

I have yet to get the hang of it,
life, I mean - the living of it

We are breaking up. He says
he doesn’t tear down walls
he deconstructs them -

he builds and repairs, has a gift
for resilience - things improve
in his hands. Except me -

I see suffering’s
blueprints wherever I go
and I can’t help

wandering through
the plans it devises,
lingering in the details -

simple homes
with plain rooms
and little storage

or intricate structures
with ample space and built-in
shelving - the layouts

for harm are infinite - multi-floored
with well-placed landings
or one-storied open foyers

that welcome hopelessness
and long hallways
that lengthen pain.

Editor’s note: This poem was sent to me in September of 1995. Michele had moved to Arlington (MA) but was still attending the Princeton writers group when she could. In her letter, she said, “The poem has gone through many transformations - especially with regard to the title (and I’m not sure “Love” is the best one…).”