Master Craftsman

You know the way the sidewalk’s

built. Get rid of the leftover concrete

with the pebbled windblown surface.

That’s the hardest part. Use a pick axe

and your back

so it’ll break up

in sections, as satisfying

as slipping a puzzle piece in-

to a section of cloud or fence-

post where the soft

cardboard fits, brings

the thing together, but

inside out, or like the puzzle is

Braille and you, blind.  The object

is to make the thing fall into quiet.

Jesus, the chunks of concrete

are heavy.  The sun’s hot,

even the wheelbarrow, caked

with dry concrete, is heavy.

When your face is not flushed, when white

round patches appear along

your cheekbones, sit

down.  Drink water.

The refugees from Bosnia work

harder than you will, without direction

after this morning’s.  After you snap a line

and use the two by fours to make

forms you can put the gravel down.  When

the customer says something

you have a strong

thought about, don’t worry, just

quickly pull your hat

so they don’t catch your derisive expression.

Lean into the light sky,

the sun washed over and into your face

so they know you don’t think you are better

than them.  Yeah.  Even in 1990.

When the concrete is poured,

make sure you have the come-along,

then the trowel, already in your hand, everything

dries fast and this is the only Master’s work.

Drive the concrete from left

to right, in flat circles. The derision carries

over into your self portrait:

that you have a good eye, that

you can lay the stone

level as easily as you play pool

with one hand (showing off) getting

around the bifocal dilemma

of split sight as you gaze

down the cue stick

from the end of it instead of the side, means

less than little.

Don’t acknowledge the math.

But how is it, Dad, your grandfather

had potter’s tools

when he arrived here, fine delicate broom

corn brushes, boxwood tools, but

ended a concrete mason with tools longer

than my frame?  Did Benjamino’s back

get the legacy instead of his fingers because

he fell in love or in patriotism

or were there never such things as

opportunities but only work?

Was it the war or the trip to Pittsburgh to build

bridges like a  cloudy day that didn’t

fit with anything else and he would get

back to the better

practices next year? I wonder if time

actually moved faster then, than now,

so no one had, really, any options, but rushed

along like branches in a bad winter’s March

creek? It doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t

matter.  A master craftsman ought to build

less.  Play a round of Hi-Lo between

dealers. Like your generation, stopped

by a war that made everyone ask

what war was, either.

Now what’s going on is a master

craftsman’s sensibility, in you for good. Walk

away, I just caught you turn abruptly;

that’s a Beniamino answer,

your witful honesty, like a wire clay cutter

trimming the table away from the vase,

moving this adroitly to a kiln

of hot opinion.

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