Grey, massed under the skin of your hands
Wet concrete cracks your fingers
To bled claws.

And your wrists and elbows—they grate bare
On your sleeves’ raw cloth, grit
In the stuck wrinkles.

All day you feel the fattening trowel sweep
Forward and back and forward and back
As the concrete stiffens under.

And the heavy blood of your neck and tilted shoulders,
Your arms heavy, stones holding down wet stone,
Wet and heavy as the work that holds me down
All the hours of the day and the night.

What you have done with your hands hardens
For a long time, slowly, the job over.
As we stand on the concrete.

:: Herbert Applebaum, in Going for Coffee (1981)

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