Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Asphalt" by Al Ortolani



The road crew hired temps
between semesters
to stand beside the hopper
shoveling. The foreman
disliked college students.
He never learned our names,
referenced us by the tools
we carried—Skip and I
were Shovels, scraping the hot
mix into the conveyor.
Ronnie the college drop-out
advanced to Rake.
He followed the paver,
flicking the screed ridge
to a smooth seam.
All summer I shoveled the city
streets, made-do with whatever
shade I could catch. Each day
at five, we cleaned the tools
with diesel and putty knives.
Then we sprayed our boots,
kicking our steel toes against
a bar of rail line. We wet rags
with the diesel and scrubbed
our hands and faces.
Then I drove home, a towel
on the seat, another on the arm rest.
I hung my work clothes
on the fence behind the house.
They appeared capable
of walking off on their own.



"Asphalt" by Al Ortolani from Paper Birds Don't Fly. © NYQ Books, 2016. 

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