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)

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