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.