Old Roofers

Old roofers grunt like bad sex
when they heft a bucket of hot tar

contractors, union guys with cards,
day laborers all do it over ladders

wheelbarrows, hoes, hauling weights
in the sun, climbing, digging, pulling.

They moan, breath forced out
heaving over their work as a body

beneath them, the effort to rise
and fall, like in a trench in the hot

desert, or on a muddy road pushing
boulders aside, slow heavy labor.

The sweat starts even in winter,
jackets laid aside men work hard

focused brows pinched, red cheeks
they eye their various tools as they

pump their arms up, down, the shovel
grip wet they gasp again, pick slips out

of their hands. Now they can stop
straighten their backs, the hole dug

pipe fitted and soldered they smile
breathless, proud of their work after all.

Emily Strauss

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Emily Strauss would be pleased to hear them.