Issue 1, Poetry

One to Mix the Mortar, One to Shape the Bricks

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. June 1942.


Who here did this?
Who helped you build this? There were at least
two others.
One to mix the mortar
one to shape the bricks.
You set them and stacked them but who gave them to you what hand wet with red clay.

People ask if it’s satisfying to work with you hands. My god,
When it’s patient
you can’t tell the difference between mindlessness
and meditation.
Either way it doesn’t hurt when you focus
on the work
at hand,
the bricks
keep coming
you place them
one by one
smooth enough to be wallpaper.

You’re sitting now almost finished. From floor to ceiling
on all sides
of you
how happy.
The hand still reaching into a hole
that’s getting smaller.
A window?
You don’t know. They don’t pay you enough
to read blueprints. Something still, to be proud of
as they say.
It’s satisfying
yet tiring
when the last brick slides in
you may rest then.

Two Construction Poems


Underneath my clothes,
i am still covered
in aluminum, asbestos flakes
all the sparks that didn’t die.
A light beam down my esophagus
with yawning dust.
Mesothelioma and all the other cancers making a light show before they settle down and settle in.

Fibers and fascia
wick silica downward,

Not a garden hose nor sprinkler to mat down the dust
just rain when it comes
and snow mixing greyed,

a flat cake of powder. We live in a
black and white movie.

Under my clothes
i’m wearing nothing at all.
You don’t know me naked.
Even if i were a boy,
you’d not know me naked.
Hands like shovels,
tits like armor,
the body of a dancer on edge beams and narrow,
the open light air, inverting
the heaviness of my sorrow. ok, so you think you’re spiderman, you’re batman, on top of the city, from sunup to sundown,
watching it with contempt.
i yell over the drone of machines to keep the word chicago
out your mouth,
go back to your parking lot. Nobody lives in these buildings and nobody will.
Who wants to climb 40 stories when the power goes out?


Gets laid off,
goes to a bar,
gets laid,
doesn’t see another
high viz man for forty days

does not love another
high viz man for forty days.
no more yelling, except at cops, and when we cheat death.
Curse less too:
say fuck less and shit less,
paint my bruised nails,
hammer popped and door jammed.

i never got to tell the DILF
how bad i wanted him
that i could spoil him
push my fist inside his mouth
could bathe him, soak him soft, dissolve his hardness the product of forcing that manhood every day.

i’d lift him up
my muscles bulging
with the weight of his baby fat, his baby beard blowing
and his baby fists gripping
the faces of all the bolts.
i’d lift him higher and higher towards the highest steel beam where i’d set him down
inside a hanging bucket,
so he could be born again
in that bucket
with the baby drowning warning.

i’m a welder and
there’s nobody tougher than me
except when my ex makes me cry
and i wake up in the hotel room
with soft light spilling over everything and she says
your softness has faded​.

The meat falls off the bone under these clothes
all steam and pressure,
my skeleton calcified and brittle like limestone

like a silo.
Each floor of the building a bucket,
a tier of the waterfall, holes drilled for release.