ON BEING A CARPET INSTALLER
I hate looking up at everyone in this world from my tired, aching knees,
the way there are crooks and creaks in my joints and my spine and my mind.
How rough music and The Bob & Tom Show blares on the hard rock station
other installers tune into, and smoke rolling seat to seat, brain to brain
in the big van we pile into every morning six long days a week.
I like marijuana too, but at home writing poems and listening to John Lee Hooker.
I’d never have written a story like this with me in it, not thirty-six. Not ever.
I hate the term Mexican space shuttle: the portable toilets standing in mud,
and Mexican speed wrench: a hammer. The Mexicans I see seem to work hard
laying brick, pouring concrete and hanging drywall but speak a language
which quickly irritates stoned, hung-over carpet installers eager for lunch.
No one ever seems to know where we’re going—what city or town, state.
I want another life, like being a professor or scientist or independently wealthy.
I’ve thought a lot about such things, how my days would interact with the universe.
Walking through an orchard or a campus contemplating subjects larger than life.
Perusing grant applications I will consider from charities I might support.
Taking cabs or walking in rainstorms bar to bar in Manhattan with playwrights
and some poets or geniuses maybe, hoping a little might rub off on me.
Hoping I catch a break somewhere, meeting a person not asking if we do side-jobs.
Someone not looking down at me or ignoring me or telling me the glue smells
like shit, the new carpet’s giving them a headache, could I please work more quietly.
But the money’s good and the poems don’t pay any bills and bills, well, bills.
—from Rattle #26, Winter 2006
James S. Proffitt: “I’ve earned paychecks as a truck driver, furniture store owner, jail guard, police officer and, recently, carpet installer. I’m now a laborer which leaves much more space in my head for poems. Thank God for simple, exhausting work …”