Neighborhood Roofs

All summer, so many roofs
torn off and put back—one
three story I biked by,
so steep, the men hanging there by ropes.
Here, one sang, here, pointing to a place
past lathe, into simple posts
and beams before I, quick,
turned the corner
and lost it.

It’s just that
watching roofers from my kitchen once
I saw the old man we hired
move so lithely
on our garage—tearing off and putting back,
for days, the blunt unhurried hammer.
I watched his granddaughter
up there too, though
they never spoke. She put on earphones
and across and down the incline
moved to music. She painted her hammer
blue. Sometimes, raised,
it vanished into the sky’s
same color. I walked out one time
and shouted up—water? lunch?
But they didn’t want anything,
looking down at me like some dim
distant stars, the night
too cloudy.

Roofers are crazy, a carpenter told me.
I think of the rope that held
those men, the light and air
flooding into that attic
after a century of dark.
To be up there, to invite a house
back to its x-ray,
to the few beams it was—
they must dream everything wrong,
in reverse, and be
glad of it, stripping down
past that first wish to be something
to the deeper one, to be
nothing, before giving up
and building back.

:: Marianne Boruch, Moss Burning (1993)

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