Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sweet Bricklaying Life

Bearing silent witness
like a frozen mask –
a hundred-fifty years ago
or so, this wall – the thick
assiduously labored product
of a task that bought bricklayers
dinner and a bed: and kept,
presumably, a bit more
of the dread at bay of navigating
wild and hungry New York City
in the eighteen-fifties,

and made possible the whiskey
and the beer: I see a lean boy,
Irish, red-haired, drawing
near to climb a ladder
with a trowel – sweating
in the sun of summer 1858,
and scowling, wondering
what possibly could be a wonder
in the harsh strife of this day.
The war would come
and everything would change,

but right now the alignment
of these damned unyielding
bricks is all that he can find
in any range of sight:
eventually, maybe
he will fight and die
or come home from Antietam
with one eye or leg, and beg
his God for mercy or a trade
or wife. Perhaps he’ll think back
to his sweet bricklaying life.


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