After Work

The Middle Innings

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

“Let your heart slow down and follow your pitches.”
Vern Ruhle, Houston Astros pitching coach

A better tribute would be scraping the trim, wire brushing
the storms, sanding the clapboards down to bare wood
and mixing terps, not paint thinner for the primer, keeping
a spare brush in my back pocket for dusting the sills, the tops

of all the double-hung windows . . . not planting grass. “When’s
the best time to paint?”
from your corny repertoire—“When
they have the money.”
Boom. Sweep the snow off the stairs
and lay on the Battleship Gray, or Green Porch & Deck Enamel.

You didn’t make all hundred-and-sixty-two games this year,
missing the end of Ripkin’s streak and Big Mac’s home run
total by twelve. Irresistible to us: statistics and nicknames:
Splendid Splinter, The Kid, Teddy Ballgame hitting .388 at 39,

.344 lifetime batting average, Triple Crown winner three times.
Our cherished pursuit of official accomplishments. You had
the stroke the year the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta
(“Lou Burdette—he’d make coffee nervous.”) at an age when

most men, rich or not, begin to lean back. The man you made
assistant took your job away, the State of Connecticut your license,
and at fifty-four, you couldn’t check your tears as the Sox ripped
single after single off Yankee pitching, Fenway ablaze in adulation.

This lawn’s a mess, uneven spots at home, first base, first base
line, and the pitcher’s mound; and a worn yellow patch where we
dumped cloudy water after boiling lobsters for a birthday. Every
thing’s a chance, a time-at-bat, but I’m out here morning, noon,

and night, as you’d say, watching, waiting for the first glimpses
of grass, watering this limed and fertilized soil, spraying in long arcs
as a groundskeeper would, wetting the base paths, solicitous
of the blessed infield. I should be up on a ladder

with a paint hook and white paint pants, cutting in sash with one
of your inch-and-a-half China bristle brushes . . . But I’m out here
on the new topsoil, amended loam, under a full moon, watching
the ALCS through the window, with perfect reception of the stars,

taking advantage of the slow second season.

The Future Form of Regular Verbs

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We may be the last people we know to go, andare, to Florence
and relax in the piazza, ever poised to respond in polite Italian,
piacere, pleased to meet you, and grazie, for thin proscuitto
and double, doppia macchiatos. So andiamo, here we go for
lightly fried zucchini flowers, tramezzino of roasted peppers
with pecorino romano and panini of sausage and goat cheese.
We walk, camminare, in the heavy afternoon through vines
crooked and robusto, on rocky hills: to witness the misty, rosa,
pink, arancione, orange sunset on the Duomo.  Construction
on the cupola continuing for 16 years till 1436, the masons
laying the mattone, their wine diluted by a third high above
the nave on scaffolding without Portland or cement mixers;
and missing by 600 years the woman in the Milan airport
in black and white checkered shorts, square red sunglasses
and tailored yellow jacket, six feet easily, with pink stockings
pulled up just below her knees—

“I am all of America, do I speak English?”

In every cell of Savonarola’s friary, a Fra Angelico fresco,
thin thread of spun gold on The Virgin’s veil, swipe of gold
on Gabriel’s wings in austere San Marco—
Annunciations everywhere!
Thin stripe of silver on the currency for automatic payment:
your ticket validated and your receipt, receipts for everything,
punched and stamped, torn and separated,
receipts to keep with your brochures,
brochures with guide books. And tomorrow, domani,
the fast train, the Euro-Star to Venice, Venisse-Femmi,
banners and medieval festivals in the square, buying a paper
mechanical bird on the bridge, decordo, we’re O.K.,
lugging the cardboard carrier of hearty Tuscans
and Siena pitchers home—

“Bring me a party of cake, how much is the bakery?”

Tracking the Storm

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Channel 5 Weather Team is giddy in the studio
with solemn warnings, predictions and precautions
highlighted by graphics—blue waves for water, yellow
flashlights, red pluses on batteries—primary colors for

their target audience of shut-ins and NON-ESSENTIAL
PERSONNEL, we viewers without plows, the unproductive
non-responders, at-home posers and shirkers with careful
closed companies, cut out of the high jinks and festivities.

Parking ban on city streets! Cancellations galore! Clear
Elation! No evening classes at Abundance of Life School.
Road to Responsibility closed. Reporters drenched
in hooded parkas, braced on jetties for high tides swelling

beyond any previously recorded capacity since time began.
The station gloats: outages, impassable interstates, visibility
a problem in this dome of high pressure. Miami 76 degrees,
as if we had to know. Little Miracles Pre-School closed,

the wall of snow accumulating at over an inch-an-hour.
Behold the Doppler—the Governor in the grave barracks
of the State Police pleading with his constituents to stay
OFF the roads; snow in tuba ovals on the cut stone seawall—

mounds of wet plaster slapped on granite hawks.

Sixteen Shades of Gray

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The angle opens, the horizon
vanishes. Still for the ten-
thousandth time I work
separations unto a surface.

If there were some resolution,
I could understand, but nothing
shows, nothing moves from head
to heart to hand, but blood.

I stop, and watch intensity
diminish on the glass. Nothing
is detected, the screen oblique,
deflection of an artificial edge.

After Work

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

They’re heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds:  250s, 2500s—
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clatter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There’s a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the job site,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being done
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles,
and they know they can’t describe it, the black and purple sky.