Why I Don’t Work Construction

“You’re a big guy. You should be working construction.”
                                                             – a woman in line at Kmart


Every time I swung a sledgehammer,
shattered the faces of bricks,
the poems would stammer
like aces from my sleeves, failed tricks. 

I’d bend down, pick up debris,
expose a crack, pants too low, a cliché
run down by sitcoms. Two or three
times between tasks, I’d recite Millay. 

My résumé lacks the body strength and grace
required for lifting but includes a photo
of me as the Cowardly Lion, my Halloween face
pampered in yellow and blush, lips pursing for a solo.

I’d nod my head at the big talk during break.
Our poems recited through groans, a half hour
of recovering, carefully soothing each ache
with slow hands. Each worker, a weathered flower.

Editorial note: Originally published in Iron Horse Literary Review’s Alumni Issue (11.3), 2009.

Aaron Rudolph is an instructor of composition at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. He authored the collection Sacred Things (Bridge Burner’s Publishing, 2002) and has poems in the anthologies Two Southwests (Visual Arts Collective, 2008) and Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010).