Listening for Bridge Builders

On the 75th anniversary of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

They drowned in anchorage walls and came to rest
Below the cables where their footing slipped.
You can’t imagine how their bodies flipped
Into the sand-hog molds, how concrete pressed
Against their frantic limbs, how motions froze,
How prayers exhausted lungs of final breath.

Now engineers can plumb the depths of death.
A hammer echoes back each worker’s pose,
Surfacing sounds like those that haunt a drum,
Like cofferdams that raised the immigrants
Who worked the riverbed. Their recompense
For what they made is what they have become:
Works in the stone you cannot exhume.
So listen as you cross: this is their tomb.

:: David Livewell, in Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania


Polishing Stars

My mother believed in the strength of labor
over love, she’d torture each microbe, disappear dust
on two bent knees bearing down on a faux marble floor.

And when it was scrubbed beyond question,
past reason, she’d call Su-san, handing me a faded rag
and ancient tin of something cool as resin:

A blue-green glaze o brush across the burnished rays
of copper shooting out beneath the breakfast bar;

at four, I played a worker cursing the ravaged stars.

:: Susan Rich, Cures Include Travel (2006)


Letter to the Wound Dresser

I lay in the sun like compost,
steam rising from soup,
in such terrible singing I knew
there was no God. Yet I died
and saw his face.
He kissed my hand
then pressed his beard
against my cheek,
so a valve gave way
and the steam of my urine
met the steam of my blood.
I woke thinking I felt his
beard again on my face,
but it was flies
democratic as the mercy of God.

:: Karen Holman, in Tattoo Highway #17



My mother’s boyfriend, divorced like her, just as heavy with need,
would come home from always falling behind
and work his hands in the garden till they ached.

Whatever was in front of him consumed him—
juicing bags of grapefruit, watching the hockey game,
asking how my day was. His caring was overly serious,

as if repenting for whatever my mother, or I, or he,
never knew about his first marriage, or why he stayed
in it so long. I knew he was more generous than he

needed to be with his ex-wife and kids, and that they
always wanted more. We tried to help him talk about
all the mistakes he found on the construction site.

Try to forget it, for now, we’d say, you’ve done enough.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Where would you go, if you could?

He never remembered his dreams, even when we asked him.
My mother dreamt of a roller coaster ride with my father,
and told him how the screaming reassured her.

That’s interesting, he said, and sounded like he meant it.
After dinner, we’d stay outside to watch the city’s
moving lights. It was strange to say nothing, but I needed

to see him this way—and maybe he needed to see me—
grieving, wanting to look past the grief in labor, or generosity.

:: Matthew Schwartz, Blessings for the Hands (2008)


Yard Sale

Under the stupefying sun
my family’s belongings lie on the lawn
or heaped on borrowed card tables
in the gloom of the garage. Platters,
frying pans, our dead dog’s
dish, box upon box of sheet music,
a wad of my father’s pure linen
hand-rolled handkerchiefs, and his books
on the subsistence farm, a dream
for which his constitution ill suited him.

My niece dips seashells
in a glass of Coke. Sand streaks giddily
between bubbles to the bottom. Brown runnels
seem to scar her arm. “Do something silly!”
she begs her aunt. Listless,
I put a lampshade on my head.
Not good enough.
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

:: Jane Kenyon, From Room to Room (1978)


Whatever It Gives

After an overnight storm, ice
cloaks the open surfaces of everything
outdoors, including two of three
steps I walk down at seven
when my ride comes by—one step
dry, then I slam down hard
on the next, on my back.
But I get up unhurt because I fell
too fast to think.


Five days a week I wear the same
old clothes and never shave, learning
ancient secrets of invisibility—to be
dirtied by labor, for example.


One day I’m out on a huge flat roof doing
cornice work, kneeling, driving nails.
Some friends make up this crew. Here,
this high, we see the weather coming.
The entire sky is changing, temperature falls
forty degrees in fifteen minutes and everyone
stands excited, freezing, still.


It rains too hard to continue
so we truck off to the Paddock Club
for beer and bad food. Exiting at dusk,
wavering in the mist of a spring
fog, I sing out loud, walking
the few blocks home. White crowns,
snakeroot, nod in my uncut backyard.
Two dogs come charging out to greet me.


I’m walking up and down a hill one day
in cold yellow mud, carting
lumber on my left shoulder like a White
Mule: 44 waterlogged 15 ft. redwood 2 x 10s.
two at a trip (88 in the stack, three
packing). And then we build decks, drive
16s overhead for the rest of the day.
At home, settled neck-deep in the tub,
I find an apple-sized
bruise on my left shoulder. I pick lint
from a blood-capped thumb,
both arms, both shoulders twitching,
these good days.

:: Dan Howell, Lost Country (1993)


The Prison Guard

In the morning, his trousers fresh from a dryer,
his windbreaker on a hook, he is the foreigner, poor man.
He’s had breakfast, his bacon in strips, on the sunporch,
and he’s brushed his teeth. As he leaves for work
his wife pours bleach from a white plastic jug
slowly, in spirals, into the bowl of the sink.

My darling, my darling, my darling, she says
when he wakes her up in the middle of the night
and breathes on her shoulder, diesel and paint.
A darkness flares, collapses, small-calibre shell.
He’s soft as a smuggler, this stranger. He’s clean.

:: Janet Kauffman, Where the World Is (1988)


Open Hearth

“A brick saucer, but longer—
works like a kitchen oven
only hotter than the Holocaust,”

he says, and we remember again
how Uncle Dominic fed that furnace
his health and comfort.
The broad sweep of flames
over such raw potential:
his liver and lungs,
Aunt Joanna and the boys,
a molten flow
forced from him
by human gravity and error.
And after this, his combustion, slow
but understandable,
so much like that he had watched daily,
fueled by years of iron men
and machines, black dust and liquor.
“Coils and sheets, billets and strips—
these are the products,”
Dominic says as we listen again
to this end, his heavy slag of tales:
of Aliquippa’s caster,
19 stories tall,
of Republic’s pits and yards—
the great rats are there
that could drag a man’s lunchpail
like easy tin litter,
of three men at J & L who fell
when a catwalk buckled
to the crucible
and how their screams melted,
their faces fused like his memory,
just as tightly as those steel wire
that wrap his rob metal soul.

:: M Lisa Shattuck, in Mahoning Valley Poetry: An Anthology (1993)



Sliced bread torn in pieces,
dumped in a bowl. Bread drizzled
with black molasses. Bread white
as the milk that flooded it, milk
fresh from Mary-Ann, our own
crinkle-horn cow. A special treat
for me when I was four or five.
Trying it now I wonder how,
or if, I ever savored it. The problem
may be this watery, pasteurized
milk, or the molasses, not black,
merely suntanned. Bread, milk,
molasses: easy, cheap, nutritious.
But nostalgia’s best untasted.

:: Robert M Chute, in Wolf Moon Journal (2008)


Colors of Emptiness

three men and a maroon gondola
one man inside hooking up
yellow tractor parts
taken by a jitney and a
set of silvery wires
nothing else is moving
green water and a high blue sky
white nimbus clouds
over the brown pinole hills
green and red container ship at anchor
two tankers, long black and redlined
both anchored
yellow cleat tracks
lifted from the gondola by
the short silvery wires
nothing else is moving
only the driver on the jitney
and the man in the gondola
as the other man unhooks the tractor parts
near the orange flat-rack
near red straddlers gathering rust
outside an aluminum shed
rows of black corrosive drums
red labeled
under tall white poles with cluster lights
orange and black gantry cranes at pier 80
black traveler cranes at the container yard
white cranes at seventh street
nothing is moving
no red and white tour boat under the bridge
one gray seagull
on a piling
three men and a jitney
sorting parts from a

:: George Benet, in Going for Coffee (1981)


Lawn Mower

When I came out on the far end of the swath
exposed by the five-blade push reel lawn mower
I had aimed in one direction till it reached
the fence that keeps my yard from my neighbor’s woods,
I stopped and looked around at the green sea
with its wake of cuttings, and I asked myself
Why would you want to do a thing like that?
and then I stood the mower against the fence
and walked back up the path to the garage
where the boxes on the shelves along one wall
kept magazines and toys and hand-me-downs,
and the open sack of cow manure on the floor
held promise of more grass I would not mow
and on the windowsill the radio
played Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”
amidst a rubble of wirenuts and flathead screws.

:: Michael Heffernan, Love’s Answer (1994)


The Way Things Are in Franklin

Even the undertaker is going out
of business. And since the dime store closed,
we can’t get parakeets on Main Street
anymore, or sleeveless gingham smocks
for keeping Church Fair pie off the ample
fronts of the strong, garrulous wives
of pipefitters and road agents.
The hardware’s done for too.
a Sunday, I saw the proprietors breaking
up shop, the woman struggling with half
a dozen bicycle tires on each arm,
like bangle bracelets, the man balancing
boxes filled with Teflon pans. The windows
had been soaped to frustrate curiosity,
or pity, or that cheerless satisfaction
we sometimes feel when others fail.

:: Jane Kenyon, Otherwise: New & Selected Poems (1996)


City Planning

To be above the slough and sewage and mud,
the horseshit, the clang and sparks of horse-
shoes, the blue pennants of car exhaust,

the genial and obscene ruckus of contending
cabbies, the waft of rat- and dog-
luring garbage, the antiphonal tide

of crime and police—who wouldn’t desire it?
Not from small space only does a city
grow upward, but also for quiet sleep

and the light for which buildings vie like a gang
of gawky plants. Cars plead their loud torts
in the streets. Rats shinny up the dumbwaiter

ropes like expectations of the middle class.
Never mind, we’ll invent the elevator, broaden
the tax base, and build up. Away we go.

:: William Matthews, Forseeable Futures (1987)


Night Cook's Day Off

Daddy always said: Respect
your tools, but keep a little fear.

The sixth-grade cheerleaders wave from the fire truck
roaring past: Mister Ron! I graded their spelling tests
last night. Disbelief: my fingertip

clipping neatly off.

Don’t look at my hand, I hiss at gaping
diners, slipping on blood I can’t cup,
kicking into the kitchen toward the sink.
You asshole! screams the manager. Look
at my floor! Why did you come through the front?

I tried out back, banged the door but no
restaurant boss ever answers, unless he wants his head
blown off. Tap water spikes open the wound.
Blood on the dishes, dotting a path, marking
the back door. I can see inside myself—

oozy meat, gray flap barely hinged—

not lost in the shiny pyracantha,
skewered on some thorn, but still with me.
Can they save it? It’s this, not the blood,
that scares. Oh skin, oh flesh,
oh nerves. How I’ve ruined you. I wanted
to try my hand at something I loved.

:: Ron Mohring, Touch Me Not (2005)


The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,

and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it
Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart,
and I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

:: Li-Young Lee, Rose


A Bill of Sale

Eight or seven years ago,
before my back
began to scream at night,
we worked a rusted freighter
held together by forgotten screws.

The cargo was burlap bags of coffee
and the lingering heat of Latin sun.
Spilled beans became
ball bearings beneath our feet
as we swung the sacks into
bulging stacks on pallet boards.

The talk was of other lives
and private selves
with dreams of suburbs
and hard fought football games.

An older brother heard something
in my own embroidered tale
and said: what’s
a nice educated boy like you
doing in a job like this?
I said then,
and pray it can be said at the end,
I sold my body
to save my mind.

:: Gene Dennis, in Going for Coffee (1981)


Apartment Hunting

I’m searching for a small, cheap place to stay,
though, in a sense, all housing’s temporary,
even the grave. Robbers long ago
dug up and sold the mummy of the Great Pharoah,
who’s propped up, now, in the Egyptian Room
beside a reconstruction of his tomb.
But one day the museum’s Upkeep Trust
will dry up and he’ll turn to stinking dust.
Then he’ll be bagged and flung out with the trash
by janitors whose ancestors he lashed
to speed up work on his great pyramid.
“Finish it before I die!” They did.
It stands now as a granite monument
to a rich corpse, whose builders lived in tents.

:: Richard Cecil, in Green Mountains Review (2002)


Debts and Balances

Mornings I woke with the skyline in my eyes.
Beyond the window, the exhausts of industry
simulated the passing shadows of birds
who knew to head south, take it easy for a while.
Always too soon my father was yelling, “Get up,”
reminding me the day wasn’t getting any longer.
What did he know about the day?
Out of a job over three years, one wrist fused,
two slipped discs, he must have forgotten
what it meant to enter this world
of salt and sweat, the hand’s delicate assemblies.
In less than half an hour I was up and showering.
The bar of soap slippery, white, and I wondered
by what means grease was made to smell so clean.
I want to go back to the time of baths.
I want my father back—the shadow-stubble cheek
I kissed every blessed morning
before he carried off his thermos of coffee,
the lunch-pail of ham and Swiss on rye,
onion and garlic to keep up stamina, an apple
that couldn’t keep anything away.

:: Timothy Geiger, Blue Light Factory (1999)


The Last Day

They also serve who stand and wait.

The billowing steam’s hissing whiteness
Fades, cloud-like into a frost blue sky.
The warning whine of a crane’s siren
Diminishes to nothingness . . .
The yard engine’s forceful grunts
Ease to an unaccustomed quiet.
The black stacks become grotesque obelisks
In a graveyard of rusting remains—
Dedicated to the blood, sweat and tears
Of our fathers, and their fathers.
The echoes of clanging pipe and steel
Are all the sound that’s left
To touch the straining ears
Of those who stand—and wait.

:: Vito R Carchedi, in Mahoning Valley Poetry: An Anthology (1993)


It's Gone

It’s raining in Oxford County as we circle Lake Pennesewasee
on “Around the Pond Road,” near my wife’s once unhappy home.
At a tiny cemetery, she photographs the graves of boys, one and seven
years. I imagine a rucksack couple arriving today, seeing a lake,
an empty brick farmhouse above, deciding this is the place to begin.

At five we go to Beal Street Convenient Living Retirement Home
to take Grammy Goodwin to dinner on her 83rd birthday.
From the Lewiston Sun Journal she has clipped a photo:
my wife’s alcoholic, bi-polar sister with other assistant managers
at the opening of the new Save-a-Lot grocery in South Paris.

After the restaurant, sadly out of grape-nut pudding, I slow down
by her former house to search for a weeping willow she’d planted.
It’s gone, she says, so we drive to West Paris for mountains at dusk,
say good bye at the Home after dark and leave for South Portland.

The new section of Rte. 26 skirts Shaker Village like an urban beltway,
shiny reflectors giving runway glow to unblemished black tar.
Some slow day we’ll go back to the old road in search of reunion

lonesome for a Grange Hall by Sabbathday Lake where I’ve yet
to swim at the town beach, pretending to be local before continuing
West to hills where this summer so many old farms are up for sale.

:: Kevin Sweeney, in Wolf Moon Journal (2006)


The Ironer

Obscene as the taste of blood and the closeness of her tongue
behind her teeth. Back and forth and now the iron must be
held still, pressed down with both hands to release, like veins
under her wrists, the unwanted pattern. The human body,
which will not last or smooth, stands inside a yellow room, the
color of a bruise above a woman’s knee, flowered, she thinks,
where no one can see. There is another white shirt on the table
to complete—because it is still correct for her to be. Her arms
flush above the patience of steam and the collar heals visibly.

:: Allison Benis White, Self-Portrait with Crayon (2009)


The Industrialization of John Young's Town

The lush green acres where once you stood
have since sprouted stacks of smoke.
Like calliopes, their notes rise
in colorful clouds over the valley,
hovering reminders on the horizon,
that the immigrant spirit
could not be contained within.
These black silhouettes
against the sun-filled skies of Ohio
rained graphite on the white sheets
our mothers hung out to dry.
And graphite filled our pores.
We shine from its black luster still;
while as children we thought them
to be chained to steel’s progress.
When at the time, we did not know what we do now.
They lived among the flames
So we could be born of their fire.

:: Francine M Papp, in Mahoning Valley Poetry: An Anthology (1993)


What Could Happen

Noon. A stale Saturday. The hills
rise above the town, nudge houses and shops
toward the valley, kick the shallow river
into place. Here, a dog can bark for days

and no one will care enough
to toss an empty can or an unread newspaper
in his direction. No one complains.
The men stand in loose knots

outside Ace Hardware, talk a little, stare
at the blue tools. A few kids
sulk through the park, the sandbox full
of hardscrabble, the monkey bars

too hot to touch. In a town like this
a woman on the edge of forty
could drive around in her old car, the back end
all jingle and rivet, one headlight

taped in place, the hood held down with greasy rope,
and no one would notice.
She could drive up and down the same street
all day, eating persimmons,

stopping only for a moment to wonder
at the wooden Indian on the corner of 6th and B,
the shop window behind it
filled with beaten leather, bright woven goods

from Guatemala, postcards of this town
before it began to go under, began
to fade into a likeness of itself.
She could pull in at the corner store for a soda

and pause before uncapping it,
press the cold glass against her cheek,
roll it under her palm down the length of her neck
then slip it beneath the V of her blouse

and let it rest there, where she is hottest.
She could get back in her car
and turn the key, bring the engine up
like a swarm of bottle flies, feel it

shake like an empty caboose.
She could twist the radio too high
and drive like this for the rest of the day--
the same street, the same hairpin turn

that knocks the jack in the trunk from one wheel well
to the other--or she could pass the turn
and keep going, the cold soda
wedged between her legs, the bass notes

throbbing like a vein, out past the closed shops
and squat houses, the church
with its bland white arch, toward the hills,
beyond that shadowy nest of red madrones.

:: Dorianne Laux


Highway Hypnosis

The center line
Is a metronome,
Wheels drift onto
The berm and back.
Another radio station
Fades into static,
And it’s too much of an
Effort to tune another.
A trucker passes too
Close, so close that
The row of road permits
Can be read.
Everything falls back
To the steady pace.
It’s been like this
For the last two hundred
Miles. Another six
Hours to go.
Driving through America,
Four lanes limited access
America, right across the tops
Of old neighborhoods and wheat
Fields. Self-service fuel
Stops, sandwiches from machines.
More center line.
There’s really no place
I want to go.
There’s really no place
I want to stay.

:: William O. Boggs, Swimming in Clear Water (1989)


from Accidents: IX. The Men There Were Then

It sounds like something that’s been
said before too many times
but I want you to know
I mean it, now, when I say
there are no men around today
like the men there were then.
You see those enormous tree stumps
with the notches in, and you don’t think.
Those were big trees.
There are no trees like that today.
We think today what we do with machines
is hard work, but our trees are tiny
and they did it all by hand.
They did it all standing on springy, narrow
boards, stuck twelve feet up above the ground
sometimes canyons below them
swinging their axes into that big wood.
To move along they’d give a hop with one toe
held under the springboard, to swing it.
Then they’d stick the axe in the wood
and stoop to reach their saws, I never
heard of one who fell.
But one time one man when he
turned to reach for his saw,
he brushed that razor sharp axe
and it slit his middle
right along the belt line for about eight inches.
It didn’t bleed so much but
his intestines came looping down like bunting.
When we came with the stretcher this man
was under the cut crouched on his knees
delicately holding up these gut loops
one by one splashing sawdust off ‘em
with water from his waterbag.
There are no men like that
around today.

:: Howard White, in Going for Coffee (1981)



When Dad took his glasses off, which was rarely,
he’d rub his face so hard with both big hands
I thought he wanted to erase his features,
press those weary blue eyes into his head,
flatten that nose and wipe away that grimace
and whisk away the whiskers and new wrinkles

but he never did, he always came back Dad:

sometimes I’d watch him nap, his worn glasses
watching us both from the bedside table,
a little me bending in his thick lenses
to study those twin deep oval bruises
on either side of the bridge of his nose,
the marks so dark they looked like openings

that he might breathe through in some other life.

:: Michael McFee, Earthly (2001)


Family Portrait

Great tarry wings splatter grayly up out of the blinding glare of
the open-hearth furnaces. In the millyard the statue of some old
bastard with a craggy grin is turning shit-colored above the bowed
heads of the night shift that comes crunching in between
the piles of slag. That’s my father washing at the kitchen sink. The
grimy water runs into the matted hair of his belly. The smell of
scorched cloth and sweat adds its seasoning to the ham and
cabbage. The muscles of his back ripple like great ropes of greased
steel. An awesome thing to see! Yet he never raised a hand in
anger against any man—which was a very lucky thing. A soapy
snort escapes him with the sound of a thunderclap, and my kid
sister vigorously rattles the lid of a pot. In the parlor my grand-
father lies, two days dead. “Aye, and the only statue for him’s a
spade in ‘is stumpy teeth now.” “—A lapful of withered nuts to
make the muckin’ grasses grow . . .” “—Hush you are, for here
be the priest with his collar so tidy and lady-clean.” “—Liked
his bit of drink, Hughey did, God take the long thirst out of his
soul and all.”

I myself remember once after a brush with Mrs. Hannan, who
happened to be passing hard under his window one morning, he
told me, “Ah, there’s only one thing worse than the rich, my
lad . . . and that’s the poor, and that’s the ruckin’, lyin’, unman-
nerin’, snivelin’ poor, my lad!” and a great whip of tobacco juice
lashed out onto the tar-topped road.

On, on into the small hours went the singing and the laughing
and the gay, wonderful story-telling . . . and all the while the
candle wax dripped slowly down my grandfather’s shiny black
Sunday suit.

:: Kenneth Patchen, Red Wine and Yellow Hair (1949)


from Apartment

Square blur of light on concrete behind an Army Reserve
billboard. A teenage boy wearing a BURGER KING paper
crown. The blurred sounds of a language unknown to the
hearer. To die from the guts out, to say the word guts,
to sit in a bar like Falstaff (the sun a laughing woman in
flame-colored taffeta). What happens to the athlete whose
body suddenly won’t do it? What happens to the sparrow
falling? And a guy who can’t stop losing his money betting
on hoops will never be Michael Jordan, never even be an
angry young working-class rocker playing a local hole
Tuesdays: what does he see when he sees greatness at a
card show? Why did Frank Sinatra act like a gangster?
Bullying meant class to him? Day before the first day of
spring: sunlight crosses a wood house painted mustard,
cold rising behind people’s backs. Twilight will come as
wet cold
that lines bursts of wind like an aftertaste: five of
four. Take notes on everything, that’s one option. A chest
of drawers, unvarnished, unpainted, means one thing to a
college sophomore, another to a sixty-year-old “loner”;
first apartment, meet last apartment.

:: Joseph Lease, Human Rights (1998)


In the Bahamas

The doctor looked at her stitches thoughtfully. A tall lean white man with an English manner. “Have you ever watched your mum sew?” he asked. “The fellow who did this hadn’t. I like to take a tuck on the last stitch. That way the skin doesn’t bunch up on the ends. Of course, you can’t see the difference, but you can feel it.” Later she asked him about all the one-armed and one-legged black men she kept seeing in the street. “Diabetic gangrene, mostly. There really isn’t more of it here than in your country, but there’s less prosthesis. It’s expensive, of course. And stumps are rather less of a shock when you come right down to it. Well, as we say, there’s nothing colorful about the Caribbean.” He tapped each black thread into a silver basin as he plucked it out. “Have you ever been to Haiti? Now there is a truly appalling place.”

:: Robert Hass, Human Wishes (1989)


Two by Richard Carr


The peonies shouldering the front steps
first attract ants
shrewd ants climbing the stems
to the syrupy big buds ready to bloom
and then they do and that’s it
they bloom in great heaps of heavy color
one mound a dark engorged pink
the other billowing white
all dotted with wet yellow
but then tomorrow the petals decay and detach
and scatter on the ground like kitchen garbage
and now you have to love them
with full-blown love.

: : : : : : : : :


Knowing he was always watching me during the hard years
I turned my nose up at Ace
though I caught him
and sometimes kept him in the corner of my eye
as he stared at me over his sunglasses
from behind the wheel of his car parked half a block down
or sometimes
I lingered in front of my building
back turned
and I don’t know why
I posed like an arrogant mannequin and waited
until I heard him pull into the street
muscle a U-turn
and roll away.

: : : : : : : : :

:: Richard Carr, Ace (2009)



Those great, gray sandwiches
that come taped back-
to-back look buoyant until you edge
your shoulder under one and
hoist. The weight’s a corpse.
Every wobble in it makes you weak.
If you flip its gray belly up
too fast, its skin cracks
along this wrinkled fault, the cardboard
bows, it buckles up the middle.
The stuff chips like stale bread.
The slab’s a mummy made of chalk,
a birthday cake wrapped up
in bandages. It can’t tense back
to clench a nail with sap,
it’s just made up, it’s rhetoric,
the cheap way to cover a mistake—
the edges of those studs you splintered,
those nails whose necks you broke,
then crucified in rage.
Everything you do is a cover-up—
the joists, each post, the flue,
even the whiskery grain of rough-cut beams
boxed in—as though anybody thought
you could deny such facts
or the fact that we have bones
that break or that the lines deepening
in your face are who you are.

:: Jonathan Holden, The Sublime (1996)