Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pick and Shovel

Dig with a shovel, dig with a pen:
Heaney's formulation. This

morning I dug a shallow trench,
recalled my Old Man, Alec,
who taught me how to use a pick
and shovel right. The crucial
nuances. (I've never seen

a Hollywood movie in which
the digging and digger weren't
unintentionally ludicrous. Usually it
starts with the genre of shovel itself.)

Alec had dug everything from
blasted quartz gold ore to river
gravel mixing concrete, from
sewer-lines to stone-wall footings.
Also graves. Often he used a long steel bar
to make a boulder twice his
weight dance aside. In another

life, without a war, he would have
been a mining engineer or geologist.
He appreciated High Sierra rock
and soil. He never got frustrated
with them. Instead he stayed steady,
befriended leverage, let the tools
work. Piles of rock, piles
of dirt.  Soon the task melted.

Labor isn't poetry, but it has
a rhythm, rides repetition,
requires alert attention. By

the time finished the trench
today, old jeans and a paint-stained
shirt had siphoned pools of sweat,
and I as satisfied again with
the father I had had.


hans ostrom 2018
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