I am loathe to scrub
this paint from my hands,
these latex scales covering
the grooves of my palms,
knuckle joints,
and fingernail ridges,
this shimmering grout
for cracked cuticles
and broken skin.

I present them to a man
behind a counter,
watch him reference
a pair of swatches titled
Sea-Foam, and Pastoral Jade
and punch codes into
a metal machine.
Now, even color is ascribed
a numeric value,
quantified by a computer
into shades and pigments.
But what of the nameless shades
my father carried
inside cans and ketchup bottles,
in plastic limes and lemons?
A tablespoon of one or two
injected
into the sterile base
until the result pleased him,
or placated him just so.
How closely could he match
the tints of his mind's eye,
what equations had he postulated
for their expression?
Was there a small sense of loss,
of irreconcilable dissonance
each time the loaded bristles
kissed newly-lain dry wall,
or a stretch of bare oak?
Did bitter reminders
linger for days
on palms and fingertips,
on shirttails and a few rough patches
of khaki or denim?