Tuesday, 05 April 2016 14:08

April Poems 2016

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Asphalt Driveway Co., Part II


A paver connects to a dump truck as

The steel form the asphalt flows into when

The load is raised and it lays the mat and

There’s a place for the novice grunts to stand


And stir the asphalt to the corners with

A shovel and because the paver is often

Not as wide as necessary and as

Constancy and speed are needed the


Grunt must fling shovelfuls accurately

And hastily until the job is done —

With the asphalt steaming and under the

Sun blazing if the new guys made it through


The day and if they could return to the

Yard the next morning they could work again.


The labor absorbs

attention so there’s no time

beyond shovelfuls

beyond the immediate

calling for utmost effort.




There was a job in the open country

On a hilltop with a glorious view

And we prepared the ground for a lengthy

Driveway on a cool morning tearing out


The old asphalt with the maul shovels and

The tractor and when the earth was smoothed we

Spread the underlying stones with shovels

And rakes and there’s an art to seeing the


High and low places and spreading smoothly

And as we were working sporadically

And then attentively we noticed the

Clouds becoming dark anticipating


Rain and it cheered our hearts at the prospect

Of honorably working half the day.


Our hearts jumped with the

prospect of lucky freedom

from a day’s labor

as children playing hooky

who are blameless and shameless.



“You are really good at taking shit” said

Steve who was on the way to becoming

A chief and I was puzzled as every

Grunt took abuse from Willie and why should


I take anything personally? I

Could do the work was paying for college

And was Steve complimenting? I don’t know —

Summers later near the ending of a


Day some kids were laughing at me because

I could hardly stand — I was five-foot-two

And I looked like a kid — and Carrie our

Chief told them to shut up and they did — and


I was grateful because I was doing

Good work and had earned everyone’s respect.


In Oxford England

the university dons

and the students weren’t

exchanging profanity —

they didn’t know hard labor.



I was nearing the end of my time on

The crews and I had chosen not to drive

The trucks as I saw difficulty that

Might threaten my job so I stayed a grunt



Those summers and they knew I was going

To college but not to Oxford England

The final year and I didn’t tell them

Because some might have made it harder for


Me — or not I don’t know — but once Willie

Had an easy day sealcoating — which meant

Pushing a broom — and he chose me to go

Because he knew I was leaving and he


Let me sleep in the cab between jobs and

So we had the easiest day ever.


And then Willie said

I would tell my grandchildren

about him and me

about summers of hard work

about this one easy day.






Upon my arrival at Oxford and

St. Michael’s Hall for a year of study

Hearing the pealing bells in the morning

I thought of the guys lining up in the


Yard in the three crews before dawn ready

For a day of hard labor and I was

Grateful for the rich experience of

Putting in driveways paying my own way


Discovering “culture” and mixing with

A more refined sort of people with whom my

Words had to be weighed carefully before

I spoke — and today I’m very grateful


To have known wrenching metamorphosis

And to have tasted whole-hearted effort.


I am grateful

to know the capacity

the precision and

and the talent required

to control a tractor’s blade.



John Henry


Another morning sun will sear the air —

Such humidity. The whole body aches.

To rise again to labor hard will tear

Muscles from sinews. The tired body quakes.

Shades don’t cool the blazing of the noon sun.

Within a soul a fury wakes to coil

A wrath to hurl the maul to powder tons

Of stone to hide a shame in deadly toil.

Evening glows with the grace of sunset’s rose.

At twilight the sweat dries in salty cakes

Across those huge slumped shoulders and he dozes

As he stumbles as he trudges as he aches.

He dreams of mountains cold rivers and lakes —

The earth is so beautiful th

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