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Poetry Magnum Opus



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A stroke of luck in hard times,

the new owner of an ancient home

wants all stone walls repaired,

a skill possessed by few men

in the valley, the best unschooled

except for his hands and the past.


He began with a still sturdy old base,

except for a few failings where runoff

water had made holes as the

ground shifted. The same old rock still

grew from the ground, providing perfectly

weather-worn stones to fit the wall—now his wall.


The old man worked on no schedule

except one set by the task, understood

with a handshake over details of the deal.

The new owner wanted the past recovered

and the stone man knew what that meant,

having worked these bulks and the earth for

all of his years since the Great Depression.


Two days of searching and hauling

in his wheelbarrow brought the fillers

to solidify the base. No cement, the stones

melded to leave little space for movement,

held by friction and gravity with maximum

surface contact. Perfect vertical backing checked

and rechecked as the stones took their place,

to settle over the coming years.


The craftsman wore no gloves, his callused hands

relishing the heft and roughness, the feel of dirt.

Larger stones find their places in the front and bottom

as the wall grows to its former shape with the same

materials from the nearby world.

Stakes and strings help keep the wall even

and vertical. The stone worker gives no thought

to pleasing the owner, but pleasing his sense of art.


Long rocks set into the wall to help hold it together,

and heavy ones cap the level top.

He digs a drainage ditch on the uphill side and fills

it with stone rubble to carry the rain to the tile drainage

pipes, replaced after more than a century.Three months

later, he stands back to assure the proper

width, level to the eye and pleasing.


He will watch the wall through the years as he

and his construction ages. He and the wall will

stand firm without any other choice. The owner

will also admire through the years and congratulate

himself for having found the bare hands artist

whom he knows was underpaid, not knowing

that the old man had grown rich on the job.

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  • 1 month later...

Very impressive, Franklin. To begin with, the poem is written as if the author has firsthand experience building stone walls. Then several perspectives, that of the customer and that of the contractor, are presented and enhanced by their respective emotional insight and life experiences! When I first saw this poem in the queue, I didn't think I'd like it (from the title and the rock wall subject - besides I'm not such a fan of Frost's "Mending Wall"), but as I began to read, that changed. This is very, very good. I'm blown away.



Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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