Op-Ed : After Work
They're heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s-
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There's a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can't describe it, the black and purple sky.
John Maloney is a stonemason as well as a poet. He lives in Chilmark.
American Life in Poetry
After Work was published by American Life in Poetry, a weekly column for newspapers and online publications, featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser, the United States poet laureate from 2004 to 2006.
In his introduction to "After Work", Mr. Kooser wrote, "I hope it's not just a guy thing, a delight in the trappings of work. I love this poem by John Maloney, of Massachusetts, which gives us a close look behind the windshields of all those pickup trucks we see heading home from work."
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by John Maloney, whose most recent book of poetry is "Proposal," Zoland Books, 1999. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 2/2007, by permission of John Maloney. Introduction copyright © 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.