Independent Contractor

By Norman Williams Norman Williams
Forty degrees; the threat of rain. That time of fall
         When we are most inclined to end it all.
Denim-jacketed, with a faded sweatshirt hood,
         He draws his plane along a length of wood,
         Then takes a chisel to a cornice piece
         With two light taps. His movements never cease;
His cracked and callused hands, in gloves with fingers cut,
Rub up for warmth, then start like hares hawked by his thought.

He knows no other work; wants none. He learned this from
         His father—brace and auger, bob and plumb—
The same way he learned how to hunt or take a beating:
         Not by words but by a look, and by repeating
         Mutely each grimace, wince, set of the jaw.
         His job is more than workmanlike. No flaw
Or gap offends the eye. Each post and bull-nose stair
Seems proof of love—if love is proved by excess care.

“Independent Contractor” from One Unblinking Eye by Norman Williams. Published in 2003 by Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, Athens Ohio (

Source: One Blinking Eye (Ohio University Press, 2003)

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Poet Norman Williams

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Jobs & Working, Activities


An attorney in Burlington, Vermont, Norman Williams earned a BA from the University of Colorado in 1974 and a JD from Yale University in 1979. He is the author of the poetry collections The Unlovely Child: Poems (1985) and One Unblinking Eye (2003). He has received an Ingram Merrill Fellowship, an Amy Lowell Fellowship, and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Unlovely Child won the I.B. Lavan Award. Poet . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Jobs & Working, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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