We work methodically all morning
stripping away the light
caught in the varnish
which has coated this floor
through red wine stains, high heel dents
and the tears of generations
of black-eyed children
trapped beneath the layers.
The light comes away in curlicues,
as easily as pencil shavings
piling up in corners.
My knuckles are red and chafed
and Pierre is humming a tune
he picked up from the lady
who sells single cigarettes
by the metro station.
Each panel of wood sighs
as we reveal its spongy
and unreflective interior,
paler than flesh.
We break to peel away our shirts,
drink water and I watch the light
pirouette off Pierre’s back
with its particular constellation
of moles, the name tattooed
on the nape of the neck and the scar
that runs from shoulderblade to hip.
I want to take this carbide scraper
and apply it to the wood of his body
stripping away its story
and leaving the skin in little heaps of trouble
to be swept up and disposed of.
— Published 2 October 2018
About Tom McLaughlin
Tom McLaughlin is a Northern Irish poet who lives in London where he teaches English in a secondary school. He is currently completing his MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway and has previously had work published in Birds Piled Loosely.