Saturday Poem

Waiting for Lumber
Mark Turpin

Somehow none of us knew exactly
what time it was supposed to come.
So there we were, all of us, five men
at how much an hour given to picking
at blades of grass, tossing pebbles
at the curb, with nothing in the space
between the two red cones, and no distant
downshift of a roaring truck grinding
steadily towards us uphill. Someone thought
maybe one of us should go back to town
to call, but no one did, and no one gave
the order to. It was as if each to himself
had called a kind of strike, brought a halt,
locked out any impulse back to work.
What was work in our lives anyway?
No one recalled a moment of saying yes
to hammer and saw, or anything else.
Each looked to the others for some defining
move—the way at lunch without a word
all would start to rise when the foreman
closed the lid of his lunchbox—but
none came. The senior of us leaned
against a peach tree marked for demolition,
seemed almost careful not to give a sign.
And I, as I am likely to do—and who
knows, but maybe we all were—beginning
to notice the others there, and ourselves
among them, as if we could be strangers suddenly,
like those few evenings we had chosen to meet
at some bar and appeared to each other
in our street clothes—that was the sense—
of a glass over another creature's fate.
A hundred feet above our stillness
on the ground we could hear a breeze
that seemed to blow the moment past,
trifling with the leaves; we watched
a ranging hawk float past. It was the time
of morning when housewives return
alone from morning errands. Something
we had all witnessed a hundred times before,
but this time with new interest. And all of us
felt the slight loosening of the way things were,
as if working or not working were a matter
of choice, and who we were didn't
matter, if not always, at least for that hour.