Leo's Tool & Die, 1950
In the early morning before the shop opens, men standing out in the yard on pine planks over the umber mud. The oil drum, squat, brooding, brimmed with metal scraps, three-armed crosses, silver shavings whitened with milky oil, drill bits bitten off. The light diamonds last night's rain; inside a buzzer purrs. The overhead door stammers upward to reveal the scene of our day. We sit for lunch on crates before the open door. Bobeck, the boss's nephew, squats to hug the overflowing drum, gasps and lifts. Rain comes down in sheets staining his gun-metal covert suit. A stake truck sloshes off as the sun returns through a low sky. By four the office help has driven off. We sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside for a final smoke. The great door crashes down at last. In the darkness the scents of mint, apples, asters. In the darkness this could be a Carthaginian outpost sent to guard the waters of the West, those mounds could be elephants at rest, the acrid half light the haze of stars striking armor if stars were out. On the galvanized tin roof the tunes of sudden rain. The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan, the one we waited for, shows seven hills of scraped earth topped with crab grass, weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening at the exact center of the modern world.
From The Mercy by Philip Levine. Copyright © 1999 by Philip Levine. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.