Work Poems, Labor Day 2019
It’s Labor Day, when many of us, ironically, have the day off work…to read poetry and admire art! Many others celebrate International Workers day on May 1. Whenever and however you celebrate, thanks to us all for the work we do! Click the poets’ names to see more of their work. See more art here and here at Drew Tyndall’s new website.
He’s the guy who cleans
the library. No one asked—
he saw it needed doing
and got to it, and is faithful,
Wednesdays, in every kind
of weather. Old dog watches
and waits and won’t be left
as Ex scours porcelain
and works in oil to coax
soft-wood planks to a shine.
I nearly forgot this about him—
that he recognizes need
and gets down to it,
sometimes on his knees.
At work he lugs trees from one
place to the next, mindful that this
is strange: In our world the deal is
trees stay where they emerge,
but not in the garden center,
where he waters and weeds
and learns the names of flowers,
and all the ways to give them care.
While he labors, the old dog waits
and sleeps and barely touches
his bowl. We both know he’ll bring
the hopeless ones home, and find
a place for them, and with all that is
in him, he’ll coax them to take root.
My friend will turn anything into
a prayer. Sweeping the leaves, shaving
his beard, washing dishes—
every chore, a chance to purge
what no longer serves. Today
I’m folding laundry. I start with jeans,
crisp from the dryer, smoothing the creases
then draping them on wooden hangers.
Shaking wrinkles from the sheets, I square
the corners the way my mother taught.
White T-shirts stacked flat on a shelf,
sundresses on felt hangers, sweaters
nestled in drawers. I find a place
for every blouse, every scarf, until
it feels inevitable. Order our days—
the remnant floats up from decades
of Sundays like words of a forgotten
song—in Your peace, I chant
as I fold, hang, repeat—the hamper
half-empty, the bureau crammed
to bulging with warm paired socks.
Honor Fell (1900-1986)
It’s true I brought an animal
to my sister’s wedding. It wasn’t
a large animal. It wasn’t a
loud animal. I don’t see why
everyone made such a fuss.
Ferrets are friendly!
But let’s talk about cartilage. And skin.
Let’s use the word histological.
Let’s leave the ferret in the past
and move on to chickens and pigs.
The avian knee-joint. An occasional
rodent. I directed the Strangeways Lab
for forty years. I earned “Doctor”
and was rewarded with “Dame.”
My bibliography goes on for seven pages.
It’s not my fault you don’t know this.
It’s not your fault. It’s not the ferret’s fault.
Let’s agree to laugh about it while we do our work.
Life Above the Sun
I had allowed life on earth
to become meaningless
and filled with despair.
So I climbed a tall ladder
and lived above the sun.
My house up there was in
and in need of much repair.
It felt good to fix the roof,
replace broken windows,
and tear out rotten boards
so the front porch once again
could become a place of rest.
I put dinner on the old stove
and sat in a wooden rocker,
watching the afternoon light
sprawl across the meadow,
the blue hills in the distance
a revelation that everything
is of consequence, everything
I ever do carries great weight.
I’d pruned the wild orchard
and as the night grew cool,
I built a fire of apple wood.
Then I set myself to the task
of stitching my mind together,
that old blanket made of wool
that was dirty and full of holes.