By Brock Guthrie
Featured Art: Painting with Troika by Wassily Kandinsky
Seven in the morning laying insulation
and wiring electric with a friend and his friend
who make money building houses.
Laying insulation at seven on Saturday
because of a promise made the night before
at the bar, where the ambition to learn
something about house circuitry
appeared like a blown fuse. This pink shit
makes you itch. Not so with my friend here—
he’s worked with this stuff so long
he sleeps on it, wakes up
throws a piece in the toaster, eats it slowly
with cream cheese and coffee. Shouldn’t we
be wearing respirators or something?
How the hell should I know?
But this is good. This kind of work
is good for me—re-callous these grandma hands
I’ve grown. Like back in those summers
when I tar-sealed blacktop
on ninety-five-degree early mornings. “And then
in the afternoons,” I tell them. On break
we smoke a joint in front of the site, drink
water, sit there in silence. Silent like that
until I start to count breaths. And wonder
what happened to last night’s beer brotherhood.
But then I recognize the similarity
between our collective awareness
and the object of our unfocused gazes:
Margaret’s Creek, running muddy and a little high
along the other side of the road.
I could try to articulate this thought—
it might break the silence. Then again it might
make more, and I want to work with these guys
on future jobs, so instead I tell them how
I once caught a five-pound largemouth
a quarter-mile up this creek
that jerked so hard in my grip
she stuck two of the treble hook barbs
from the top-water Rapala I caught her with
into my thumb, how I tried for an hour
to loosen them from the nerve, feeling it
in my front teeth, fish in the water, gone,
how I had to push the points
clear through the side of my thumb
and clip the barbs with rusty wire cutters.
“Sure,” I add, “there’s good fishing in this creek
if you know the good holes.”
Then my friend’s friend holds out his left thumb,
a nubby little thing, tells us about an accident
he had with a circular saw.
Brock Guthrie’s poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. He teaches English at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.