There is more to life than labor,
there is the soul’s need to be a child in old age,
beginning with the wiping of the father’s brow
then the mother’s
as they die from so long attending the fields
and the shadows of the house
and there is no end but death, no, nor for any
one alone does the long cloud arrive.
I put away my shovel when I reached this age.
I closed the door of the boiler room
and returned to the cafeteria and my book of days.
I had saved all there was to save.
The sweat had poured, the body was dry now.
The aches, the pains, the lingering of them.
So this is what those who begat me suffered
gladly. And I was among the lucky.
Here I am, free of the curse of the brow.
I look under her shadow where her breasts fall.
I see where he goes and his hands tremble
for no reason. A child follows behind them.
The food waits under glass. It was meant
to be taken in small bites, not the raven’s
purchase that rends its prey, rather the young,
the loving, the immaculate care the body
gives to a body not its own but of its own flesh.
Not that the nights are over
even if days come easier on the body’s weight,
no, there is the love the thighs encourage,
with which the loins spring forth,
and I do not know if there will be time
remaining to recall the light in her light step,
how he glided with her to the long, wide bed.
Now it’s time. The night has moon to shine
and does, the deer come to the empty streets,
the birds wake when dawn gathers the light,
the streets swept, water drying, the echoing
of voices and footsteps and doors beginning
to open and close, rise and fall, even laughter
among the morning dazed, the jabbering mad,
perhaps words too–these?–to carry them along.
That is when the door is closed to the boiler room.
The boss is back. He was the one you could not see.
He would not look you in the eye. He says nothing
even now. And there is nothing of him to be seen.
You punch in, pick up your shovel, open the door
and feel the great heat enter the pores of flesh
that also open as you scoop and swing the coal
that keeps us warm here, in the lap of summer.
(1 October 2010)