MEN AT WORK
A passel of them, standing around
or operating heavy equipment,
hard-hatted and thick-booted,
while the machinery grinds
and growls, then backs up: beep
beepbeepbeep, circles and moves
forward. A wizard on a dozer picks up
buckets full of gravel or pushes
and moves, the excavator digs
or deposits debris, as delicate
as a woman setting plates and flatware
on white linen. Other men stop
to watch, hands in pockets, knees
locked or heels rocking, all of them
staring at the organized commotion.
The watchers, some of them with chairs
or walkers, memories of childhood
dirt piles, sand and yellow cast iron
caterpillars moving slowly
through their dreams, the dust clouds
and sifts. Everyone is touched by it.
IRELAND FROM 38,000 FEET
Not exactly a patchwork, not
exactly a paisley print.
Small pieces of earth, woods,
river connected with stone
fences and puffs of green,
flags of wheat, spikes of corn,
those of flowering tiny rooftops.
I imagine a land of mischief
and banshees, and love poems.
Dark rooms of monks scribbling
their poor verses in the margins
of fields. Somewhere below
a man drinks his sorrows,
a woman worries hers, children
shriek and splash, the gods of long ago
swirl through their dreams.
We are traveling too fast. I can’t
hear the green stones calling,
only crying babies, a shift
of sky as we move through it,
the sizzle and whine in my ears:
you’re almost there.
You’re almost there.
VITUOSO IN A VOLVO
And I don’t mean the car, but an excavator,
the kind that can flatten a house
in three swipes, then spin on its track
and pluck cut limbs and lay them
gently in a truck bed. This one’s a noisy
thug while the engine warms in front
of my house, roadwork the order of the day.
The operator is wearing Day-Glo
yellow, a shirt with cut out sleeves. He’s gentle
bellied and bearded, jeans slung low,
his hair wispy as wheat in a breeze.
But behind the levers of this machine,
he is genius, a conductor of an orchestra
of concrete and wet clay. Deep below
the street, the bucket digs
and with a flick of a steel wrist,
picks a load, positions its burden of muck
and tips it gently into a waiting receptacle.
How delicate this dance, such power
and precision, I can’t help but admire him
and marvel at his training,
his instincts and sense of balance.
My house shudders at the thought,
then settles for more.