Body of Work

Body of work was selected as part of MSU Library Short Edition's call for submissions on the theme of "Home," in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibition "Where We Dwell." Robert Fanning is the author of four full-length collections of poetry: Severance, Our Sudden Museum, American Prophet and The Seed Thieves, as well as two chapbooks: Sheet Music and Old Bright Wheel. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, The Atlanta Review, Waxwing, THRUSH, The Cortland Review, The Common, and many other journals. He is a Professor of English at Central Michigan University, as well as the Founder/Facilitator of the Wellspring Literary Series in Mt. Pleasant, MI., and the Founder/Director of PEN/INSULA POETRY, a resource for Michigan poets. For more information, visit:

Because we want it brighter. Because we want our own beauty bared
before us. Because we've lived long enough with the room's
deep forest print, we take to the wall. Faces masked,

we begin the task of peeling off the torn, dog-eared green, opening
the story of our house. Years bleed up from beneath the heat
of steam: solids, stripes, prints and florals unfurling

as we score and scrape—decades of blues and deep reds, of pastels
and pale yellows, a spectrum of dust-wet flesh sloughed
off, pages falling in strips and flakes at our feet.

It's more than a century of layers with their pentimento stains of breath
and voices before we reach bone, breaking through
plaster holes we patch later, before, at last,

the last wet swaths of our chosen painted shade dry; we finish
in the day's fading gold. This is the work of house
and body. Every decorous self a patchwork

of seams and glue, a mashup of lives to make one. Each accretion
of wound and scab a making and unmaking, the flesh
a roll of film, a wall of swatches in the shifting

fashions of light. How I've peeled back year into year, hoping to see
the face of the child I was, the one breathing just beyond
this last brittle layer of blue, whose shadow

blossomed into this life, this room.
Who blooms through his million lids of sleep, his chorus
of bruise and roses. Who sings and sings: stay true, stay true.

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