by Ed Ruzicka
You might as well count rain drops
in an August storm as try to calculate
how many nails I’ve pursed between lips
so I wouldn’t have to reach back down
as I hammered, roofed, framed,
or how many screws, machine bolts
I held like that while I did repairs.
I remember drinking in respite as I sat
in the half-light of a factory break
to munch a cheese sandwich
beside a machinist that washed
his Twinkie down with Coke.
That was in Wisconsin.
In Louisiana, on a drilling floor, I threw a chain
that choked and twisted the diamond-head bit
off the end of one hundred twenty stands
of six inch pipe stacked in ninety foot sections
in the derrick-hand’s rack – heavy
wood floor smeared black and slick.
I’ve helped heft up, then taught,
a three hundred-fifty pound woman
how to use the muscle’s pulleys, leverage
herself up from bedside onto walker,
then inch those feet across the floor
so she could live alone again. Clocked out
at four to do a list of home health visits.
Until you have a child you don’t know
what you will do for a child. Or what
your parents did. How they worked beyond
muscle until strain inevitably degraded bone.
How they became consumed by a weariness
they had to pull themselves out of
before dawn even started its route,
hope that the future could cure them.
What can you do? Maybe, like mom,
put it in a picture album so some day
you’ll know, this was all worth saving.
Read the story that puts them to sleep.
Listen intently to what Rachmaninoff could do
with men’s fingers. On the swing-set at the park,
push those munchkins as high as their glee can manage.
For years, run down to and along the slender stream and back.
Suit up for the graduations. Change engine oil
every three thousand, five hundred miles.
Finally, finally, finally let dusk find you
at the end of a glass mixing shadow and light.
Lift another sacred evening to your thankful lips.