I love to see men coming out of holes:
manholes and sewer drains and train tunnels
or down the poles of firehouses, the gong
going like crazy, a dozen heroes
in the making. Through the bedroom window
comes the housepainter to touch up my sills,
a college boy, naked from the waist up,
who talks of Nietzsche between drying coats,
or hauled up from my well the dowser calls
There’s water! as he dabs his sweaty face.

I’m known to gawk at men in coveralls,
jackhammering themselves into the earth,
then rising out of the rubble like the dead
or the bellringing priest pulling the ropes,
then descending through the steeple trapdoor,
one of God’s discard angels without wings.
Perhaps it’s their fragility I love—
men caught between things, concentrating on
plummeting through the dark, then coming back,
smiling, unscathed, with their hardhats still on,

no time to think of conquests, empires, women,
the makes of cars, the best in mutual funds,
who won the Super Bowl. No, they’re knee deep
or more in circumstance: the mainline broke!
There’s trouble in the bowels of the earth
that needs urgent fixing! When they emerge
shaken by what they’ve seen, tears in their eyes
at disasters and deaths averted—that’s when
I love them most—when they remind me of
that moment when their mothers gave them birth.

:: Julia Alvarez, in Green Mountains Review (2002)

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