A brush with a thinner
by Sean J. Mahoney

Early this morning I again ascended the scaffold
with a brush and pail half full. Eye to eye
with the Virgin. Weeping still, like yesterday,
she rails me for bubbling like air isolated
in pockets of water where she cannot reach
me and I cannot see. I want her to reach
me but she just will not swim.

She shimmies on the corrugated tin side
of a warehouse where the faithful –
touched, tickled, and the reprimanded –
daily gather. And she speaks to me
even as I hold a brush against the lips
I quake to erase. She rails me more
for having turned my head around
many times, for making the sign
on her heavenly chest, and shoulder,
and forehead. She has limitations. And
limited patience. I want her to reach me
before I am no longer breathing.
She wordlessly rifles through dictionaries
for imperfect words, for the atomic weight
of passive verbs. Now I can see her. I can
hear her trickling down over herself, oozing
past screws, dents, and the attempts of others.
These locutions she weaves into a thatch
of broken sight bulbs and deep night bruises.

This is agony. I want you too. Take my hands
off of you. Kiss them forgiven. I have
sloshed you with the sign across
your belly, kneecap, and your heaven.
Not the lips. I need for you to continue
singing, keep telling me that I am the one.
Early as her Father rose I came down
off of the scaffold. I did as she asked and
stopped removing her. I walked among
her people, tearing. Eye to painted toe
with her vision the Virgin she railed me
again for being

so isolated

like a thinner in pails where I couldn’t brush
against her, kneel before her, and spit shine
her smeared sweetness. She has no more
questions she says.

And I plead with her:
Ask me to recite the Periodic Table.
Ask me if the bones of the finger
that distend the brush will
ever clear the milky film
from your eyes,
those brilliant
large tearing eyes.