Note: As a craftsman for thirty-five years and an active maintenance/yardman in retirement, I often derive my themes from the nature of work. The striving for perfection in work is a worthy goal, but it is in imperfection that life is interesting, that makes art possible. Chance and choice, of course, play a role as well.
Through the murky light of culvert pipe
Pratts Run smooths itself before me,
the sun-exuberant landscape is the long focus
of corrugated steel the way a telescope
plucks clarity from darkness.
I wade pudding-soft silt to chase minnows,
crayfish, with every boy’s timelessness.
Then searing-sharp bottle glass
slices my sole, initiating belief
in the pain that holds us to this world.
Decades on, I recoil to recall
that touch of chance—my blood
escaping into gravity’s great given,
mingling with waters that ribbon
around fishermen’s cutbanks
to join life’s ever-deepening consequences.
I see in my foot’s flow and eddies
the straight scar, paired pits,
where sutures held the wound I walk on.
Adding My Own
Should I sand them smooth
or let these painter’s drips
be footnotes to the history of the house
and just brush over them?
From corners of the six-panel door
surplus cream gravitated
and still gravid, skimmed over, dried.
They have a ghost-like presence.
Was the painter simply inexperienced?
Was his stroke interrupted by heart attack?
Or just impatient to meet his waiting woman?
We might excuse him if the paint had no body
or light was drained from the room
by storm clouds or by the falling of night.
Do the owner’s kids read then like Braille,
coming and going, disparage the workmanship
and will they think less of me
if I leave a few drips in a brighter color?
My lawn grows smaller each year, requires less time to mow.
Thicket, trash trees have toed, trespassed
the invisible property line by my perfect negligence.
Now I sweat to reclaim the ragged and forgotten fringes,
life impinging on life which wilderness begrudges,
a boundary dispute settled with chainsaw, axe, shovel.
Saplings are uprooted with a surprising vehemence.
Catbriar, with its underground bureaucracy,
insists on its dominion, glossy leaves and nasty claws.
What I gain is only what I have lost,
the irony of conquering is the burden of ruling.
All I have found is the straight sight between
surveyor’s iron and a stob flagged in plastic pink.
© 2018 Frederick Wilbur
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