“Summer Job” by Michael Chitwood

Michael Chitwood


At the end of the work day
you could tell exactly how far you had gotten
and how much farther you had to go.
Of course, it was just a ditch for a pipeline
to carry the reeking slop
that a neighborhood of toilets
would put together to be drained away
but it was clean, the trench,
the slick walls the backhoe bucket cut
and the precise grade of the bottom.
My job was to sight the transit.
I gave a thumbs up or thumbs down
or the OK sign if the pitch was right
so that some future day shit would flow
just as it should, downhill,
but you knew where you stood,
what you had done in a day,
and what more there was to do
and every meaningful thing I had said
I had said without a word.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets


Michael Chitwood (North Carolina & Virginia): “Several summers I worked for my uncle’s construction company and my job, because I was under-age, was to read the grade transit. It was solitary work, standing behind the tripod. It’s like writing poetry now, huge machines rear and grind all around you and you are quiet and alone.”

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