The Walls Of Your House

We put you in the ground,
and three days later,
we washed the smoke
from the walls of your house,
until the water was black
and the walls were brighter
than I had ever seen them.

I had never known
the walls of your house
without their tar smoke cloaks,
without the grey veils
you exhaled
and draped upon them.

We washed and wiped
the sooty surfaces
of the walls of your house,
and by degrees,
I learned their secret colors,
eggshell white and pastel blue,
so out of place in this
smokey dragon’s den
with its hoard of ashtrays
and lighters sucked dry.

It took hours. Hours.
I plunged the wet washcloth
into the bucket one last time
and rung out the nicotine grime,
when the thought caught in my head
that maybe it was wrong
to scrub the years
of your last black breaths
from the walls of your house,
but it was too late now.