Carpentry

Carpenters whose wives have run off
Are sometimes discovered weeping on the job.   
But even then they don’t complain of their work.

Whitman’s father was a carpenter.
He was so happy hammering houses
That he jumped with a shout from the roof beam   
And rolled with a yawp in the timothy.
This led his son to conclude wrongly
That all workmen are singers.

Whitman’s father was weak.
He had trouble holding a job.
He hoped that the house he was working on   
Would be lived in by a man more steady   
Than he was, who would earn his sleep,   
Dreaming easy under a sound roof
With no rain in his face.

Of course, there are bad carpenters everywhere.   
They don’t care if the walls don’t meet.
“After all,” they argue,
“We’re not building airplanes.”
But Whitman’s father measured his nails.   
Many mornings, clacking his plane,
He crooned a song to the corners,
Urging them on to a snug fit.
No needles of heat will escape through a crack   
If he can help it, no threads of light.

Carl Dennis, “Carpentry” from New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Carl Dennis. Reprinted with the permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see www.penguin.com.
Source: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004 (Penguin Books, 2004)
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