Paving Parking Lots

Whitman would have loved the asphalt crew
stomping around with caked and oily boots,
bronze-like with tattooed arms rippling from
their sleeves, heroic arms that pull on rakes,
with blackened baseball caps set low against
the blank suspicious stares of boss and sun.

They’re smoke and smell of oil, and glistening black
necks, and fiery red necks, necks of working
guys following Claude the foreman hollering hoarsely
above the engine roar of paving machines,
all of them followed up by No-hat Jack,
who steer his six-ton diesel-driven roller
through billowing noise back and forth just so.

Whitman would have yearned: such godly muscles,
gorgeous shoulders, ordinary faces
sweating before his face, myth come to life,
Skoal and Camels there beside the cooler.
They’re men who know what’s two and two, perhaps
can read a bit. They’re men who’ve never heard
of the great eccentric bard—couldn’t care less—
who take no bows before their audience.

:: Patric Pepper, Temporary Apprehensions (2005)

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