2006 – Frederick Lord – The Roofer

Poetry selection from the 2006 issue

The Roofer
by Frederick Lord

At fifty, which would make it 1965,
my old man could still balance two
forty-pound bundles of roofing shingles
on each square shoulder, and,
squinting against the smoke
from his Winston, walk his own weight
up the shivering ladder.

Tanned and creased the faded brown
of a poor man’s wallet
and just as thin at the waist,
with black curly hair and a nose mashed flat
from circling southpaw three rounds
for five bucks during the Depression,
he was often taken for what was then a Negro,
until folks saw his hazel eyes
and heard his Yankee yawp.
Then they’d serve his pie.

A philosopher with galvanized nails in his mouth,
a seer who could make his stomach muscles
roll like a carnival ocean,
all he wore in summer were white canvas overalls
–up one leg of which one day drifted
a small dark cloud of hornets.

The cops responded to a lady’s complaint
of a naked black man straddling
a neighbor’s ridgepole,
shouting something other than scripture,
and waving his pants at her.
Wasn’t there, there must be, a law.

Laughing, the cops brought up
his folding rule and pencil,
his cigarettes and matches,
and this same wallet right here,
holding nothing but who he was.

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