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Independent Contractor

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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 (www.ohioswallow.com).
Source: One Blinking Eye (Ohio University Press, 2003)
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Independent Contractor

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  • 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 Anthony Hecht, who chose the volume for the prize, praised the voice in the poems as “marvelously modulated, low-keyed in its acceptances, modest in its exultations, steady and unintoxicated in its long vision.”
    Because of Williams’s attention to metrical forms and residence in Vermont, reviewers have compared his work to Robert Frost. While his poems at times feature cold landscapes and impoverished, determined characters, the critic Gilbert Wesley Purdy noted that “One Unblinking Eye...

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