Forty feet up
On planks, cutting
Straight lines, fast lines, sure and trim.
We worked to finish the South Side
By noon, before the sun would bake
The paint to a cream
Five-gallon surface film,
Cake our brushes
And slow our lines all tacky.
We worked in twos, tag-teaming:
First all four, each two on trim, then separating
One for laps, leading,
And one to follow rolling, back-brushing:
Two on the left and two on the right,
Where we met, feathering.
The first to finish would roll tobacco,
Legs dangling forty feet up,
And smoke, bantering.
And then, all down:
Lower the ladders,
Adjust the jacks,
Gallon into the Five and climb.
All four divide, dicing,
Climb two on either side,
Minds wandering the clapboard siding,
The satin finish blinding.
When did days learn boys’ wants so?
To bend and heat their backs to a red umber,
Before each to his high and scut work would go?
Minneapolis, 2007. Self-published in Clay Eyes.