Though it's a city job, Carlos isn't wearing
his orange vest and yellow hardhat,
but clomps around in tan ranchero hat
and washed-out denim shirt. The foreman
warns him once again, as he must, and Carlos
swears he won't forget again tomorrow.
He straps himself into the motor grader,
skims a glove across the black knobs,
and eases forth with a mule-driver's patience,
leveling truck-dumped piles of raw fill
smoother than the sea of Cortez.
Maybe it's a gift, such effortless grace,
such seamless union of man and machine,
and maybe it's a sign how every morning,
punctual as the lunch truck with its
shave-and-a-haircut horn, he kills the engine,
clambers down, struts up close to a massive
chevron-treaded tire and just starts peeing,
as though the whole site weren't naked
as a soccer field, boxed along three sides
by green glass towers. Not that it matters--
the soil he darkens will be asphalted over
soon enough, and even now, here comes
the water-tank truck, spewing like a fire plug
wrenched open in the mid-city heat.
Small hot-pink pennants still mark
the heavy conduit we sank just yesterday,
and we've got planks on edge, framing
where the walkway's going to be.
The cement mixer inches up, its great drum
putting like a clock hand teasing toward the hour.
And Hector levers the crusty sluice above
the ready beds, the newsprint-colored mortar
plopping like horseshit to the ground.
And Manny makes quick work of it, his trowel
and squeegee broom drawing it so tight,
a dropped dime would roll to a standing stop
and never topple over. There is a thin line
between miracle and mastery. Even
Carlos stands, hat off with the rest of us,
nodding as with subtle understanding.

:: Gabriel Spera, in Cimarron Review (summer 2007)

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