Category Archives: work

Our real work

Over at Poetic Asides, the November Poem-A-Day challenge is in full swing. Last Thursday, the prompt was to talk back to a poet. I chose to respond to Wendell Berry, not in disagreement but rather in appreciation. His poem The Real Work begins:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work.

This slightly awkward rondeau is my response.


Our real work

Our real work puts on a hat and knits
outside a café, takes a drag and spits
into the wind, grinning like it can see
something we don’t – about mortality,
futility, about the shoe that fits

so perfectly we love it while it splits
our soul like weathered skin, until it hits
us in this stranger’s gaze – this cannot be
our real work!

And we are empty, scared out of our wits
by ticking clocks, by love, by snake-filled pits
we never chose. The figure strikes a knee
and we both laugh at our absurdity,
and then trade hats, while on the table sits
our real work.




“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”  Thomas Mannn



I wrote this morning,
which is why there is a pile
of plates in the sink
and we have no clean laundry.
But hey – I wrote this morning!


A Thousand Dollars Later

About twice a year, I go into a home-improvement frenzy. Nothing is safe from my fatal attraction to all things not nailed down. At such monments, my family has only half-jokingly begun referring to me as the “angel of death.” Of course, everyone is always grateful afterwards for the fruit of my labors – at least that’s what I tell myself. Here’s a meditation on home improvement, written to a prompt on “enough” over at Poetic Bloomings. Sharing today with friends visiting from the dVerse Poets Pub. Cheers.

A thousand dollars later

As summer approaches, you will decide
that the kitchen island is a tremendous eyesore,
and needs to be refinished. Accordingly, you will
drag it into the back yard, ready to strip the peeling
paint. While you are out there, you will notice
that the lawn is looking pretty long and you will
decide to mow the grass, except that the mower
no longer works. So you will go to Home Mart
to buy a mower. And since you are an ecologically-minded
soul you will choose an electric model this time,

which means buying a 100-foot power cord.
When you get home, you will realize that
you do not have a grounded power outlet
on the outside of the house and so you will
call an electrician to come and put one in so
you can mow the lawn. But he will be busy
until next week. And while you are standing at the
calendar in the kitchen talking to him, trying to
set up a date for the work to be done it will occur
to you that the kitchen walls are very dark

and could really do with repainting. So that by the
time you get off the phone with the electrician
you will have decided to return to Home Mart to
purchase bright new paint for the kitchen. Which is
all very well, except that once at Home Mart, you will
see a color swatch that looks perfect for the bathroom,
and before you know it you will be walking out of there
with enough paint for both rooms. Upon returning home
you will go to the basement to find your brushes and
rollers. The twenty minutes it takes you to locate these

items will convince you it is time for a good old
clean-out down there, and for the next day and a half
you will find yourself putting your painting aspirations
on hold while you move all the furniture around
and carry three truckloads of junk to the curb, some of
which will be immediately set upon by neighbors eager
to help with your mammoth recycling project. At some point
in this process, you will begin to realize that you are not
sleeping well, and that every sentence you say begins with
“Maybe if we just…” Your family will cease speaking to you.

The dog will retreat to her kennel. Somehow, you will
not notice. Twenty four hours later, you will be taking
a shower when you suddenly remember that at some
point you had been intending to paint the bathroom.
You will launch into this project with a renewed sense
of purpose. However, even before the painter’s tape is
in place, you will be struck by the thought that you have
never really liked the large built-in cupboards behind the
bathtub, with their deep drawers, and so you will find
a crowbar and set about that benighted cabinetry like

the villain of a second-rate slasher movie, hacking and
ripping until all thatremains of the orderly drawer and
door combo is a pile of splintered wood, a handful of
nails, and an unsightly hole in the wall. You will feel a
great sense of accomplishment, coupled with a nagging
realization that you don’t quite know what to do with
the space you have just opened, together with a sense
of wied-eyed awe at the view of the basement now
afforded by the gap you have made in the sub-floor.
Your wife will take the kids and move to a hotel. The

dog will remain in her kennel. Suddenly unencumbered
by family obligations or the need for personal hygiene,
you will push yourself to new heights of self-expression,
in fourteen hours repainting the entire kitchen and the
bathroom, leaving the house smelling of fresh paint and
self-satisfaction. Just as you are cleaning your brushes,
the electrician will arrive to put in the new power outlet.
You will pay him with thanks and go outside to mow the
lawn, where you will find your path blocked by a large
wooden obstacle. You will note that the kitchen island is

still a tremendous eyesore and still needs to be refinished.


Union Church

What if Jesus had been a union man,
and his twelve disciples had all been plumbers?
Or tool-and-die guys, or even
photocopier repair technicians?

Imagine the parables that might have been told
of leaking U-bends, and toner cartridges
found at the back of the supply cupboard,
right behind the post-its and motivational t-shirts.

His mother would have run the show
for sure – along with all the other stalwarts
who had paid their dues over the years.
You know the ones I mean – there’s always one or two.

In the end, the church probably would have been
better maintained, and letters and regulations
would always look just so. But you can be sure
the internal dynamics would be just as dysfunctional.

%d bloggers like this: