In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Jackhammer Song

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An idling chain saw keeps rhythm with my back room dancing patter, 

Squaring tables and chopping fruit, two-stepping rectangle long sides

Coloring clear plastic eye-catching berry reds, blues and bumble-black.

Jackhammers turn my thoughts to you, muscle striata crisscrossing

A bare back strained in full throttle and thrust, arms braced at angles.

Broken concrete, that’s what it felt like after I was, you know, set free,

Like nowhere to stand for fear of falling again, in ankle-wrenching cracks.

But there they are to remind me, the construction workers–building–

Repairing the road, pipes or walls, I cannot know from here inside, hearing

And dancing as if I had rhythm or grace, as if I had time to notice and laugh.

Nail guns most certainly sound like giant mutant Swinglines on steroids, 

Though no paper stacks so deeply to need stapling, no two-bit bound book,

No, not like the one written to the back of my mind on scraps of bent memory,

Built to last, survive trapped steps danced in a backward line, shot-gun stapled

To the tar in my veins slick and crumble, hardened to the yielding roadway.

The steady machine hum and buzzle constant signal hard hat quitting time.

I hear the spooling of cords and wires rubber squeezed shut like garden hoses

Half circle’d serpentine in yard corners dark and dewy til Sunday mowing comes.

Only hard heads too entrenched in imaginary ditches to quit stay up to feed night

While sweat-stains run down shower drains of fixers and makers gone home.

By the time I turn keys, write pages, push pens on paper, close covers cleaned,

Those early rising sun greeting gritty orange vested denizens of asphalt and dust

Will have set their alarms to pillows, snores, grunts and swear to the sucking stars.

And tomorrow’s dance of rattle and ear-shattering drum will resume without me.

For maybe this night the secrets to staying will keep me there beyond the walls. 

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