Dedicated to Noah Kaeser
Last of the cold sun’s light, splintering through
bare trees, the low black hill.
In the soot of your greasy workshop shed
streams of burning steel sparks
spin from the screaming grinding wheel.
You mend a broken trailer hitch for me.
Shivering in blue shadows of January trees,
hands dug into my pockets, I stand and watch
strong white tendons, sinews, veins blue
with working blood---your knowing hands
weave the broken wires, turn the threaded steel.
Quietly, your wife brings cups of steaming coffee,
sets them on the hood.
Just behind your cluttered tin-roofed shed,
the mountain river falls, rushing, sighing
the ancient song always it has rushed and sighed---
centuries of natives listening to the musical waters,
shaping sharp-edged fieldstone quartz
and chert---the working, killing tools.
Above us, bone-white leafless sycamores flush
pale coral light, minutes of fire fade to shadow,
the purple trees of dusk.
High over the deep valley, the Great Craggy Mountains
looming: scars of white icefalls, north face
glowing rose-light, those few lost moments, sunset flames.
I watch you. Serving me, you do not look up once,
you do not see them.
Winter twilight, I feel again the power of gift,
the potent spell of work done well.
Deliberate Christ-like care, and skill, given
with quiet joy, a strong heart surrendered---
the fleeting knowledge, the fragile strength
of able, willing hands.