Saturday, December 30, 2017
-For Nick and Arlene de Credico
The men working on the building going up here have got these great,
little motorized wheelbarrows that're supposed to be for lugging bricks and mortar
but that they seem to spend most of their time barrel-assing up the street in,
racing each other or trying to con the local secretaries into taking rides in the bucket.
I used to work on jobs like that and now when I pass by the skeleton of the girders
and the tangled heaps of translucent brick wrappings, I remember the guys I was with then
and how hard they were to know. Some of them would be so good to be with at work,
slamming things around, playing practical jokes, laughing all the time, but they could
.......... be miserable,
touchy and sullen, always ready to imagine an insult or get into a fight anywhere else.
If something went wrong, if a compressor blew or a truck backed over somebody,
they'd be the first ones to risk their lives dragging you out
but later you'd see them and they'd be drunk, looking for trouble, almost murderous,
and it would be frightening trying to figure out which person they really were.
Once I went home to dinner with a carpenter who'd taken me under his wing
and was keeping everyone off my back while he helped me. He was beautiful but at
.......... his house, he sulked.
After dinner, he and the kids and I were watching television while his wife washed the
and his mother, who lived with them, sat at the table holding a big cantaloupe in her lap,
fondling it and staring at it with the kind of intensity people usually only look into fires
The wife kept trying to take it away from her but the old lady squawked
and my friend said, "Leave her alone, will you?" "But she's doing it on purpose," the wife
I was watching. The mother put both her hands on it then, with her thumbs spread
as though the melon were a head and her thumbs were covering the eyes and she was aiming it like a gun
or a camera.
A History of Revolutions - rattled through the pages and triumphantly handed it to her
A photograph: someone who's been garroted and the executioner, standing behind him in a
.......... business hat,
has his thumbs just like that over the person's eyes, straightening the head,
so that you thought the thumbs were going to move away because they were only pointing
the person at something they wanted him to see and the one with the hands was going to say, "Look!
"I told you," the wife said. "I swear to god she's trying to drive me crazy."
I didn't know what it all meant but my friend went wild, started breaking things, I went
and when I saw him the next morning at breakfast he acted as though nothing had
We used to eat at the Westfield truck stop, but I remember Fritz's, The Victory, The Eagle,
and I think I've never had as much contentment as I did then, before work, the light just up,
everyone sipping their coffee out of the heavy white cups and teasing the middle-aged
who always acted vaguely in love with whoever was on jobs around there right then
besides the regular farmers on their way back from the markets and the long-haul truckers.
Listen: sometimes when you go to speak about life it's as though your mouth's full of nails
but other times it's so easy that it's ridiculous to even bother.
The eggs and the toast could fly out of the plates and it wouldn't matter
and the bubbles in the level could blow sky high and it still wouldn't.
Listen to the back-hoes gearing up and the shouts and somebody cracking his sledge into the mortar pan.
Listen again. He'll do it all day if you want him to. Listen again.
by C.K. Williams
from Collected Poems
Noonday Press, 1994
Posted by Jim Culleny at 01:51 PM | Permalink