Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Joseph Millar: Red Wing

Seems to me the best way to review a book of poetry is to quote a few poems. Joseph Millar kicked around the San Francisco Bay region for 25 years as an electrician and telephone line installer, with side trips to Alaska as a commercial fisherman. Now he's found a softer gig teaching poetry in Oregon - via internet, I suppose - while living in North Carolina. Nice work if you can find it.

Joseph, I'd love to meet you sometime if you're ever back in the Bay Area. In the meantime, I hope it's okay if I quote a few of your poems. They ring true to me. And hey - I bought your books. I hope some other people read this and buy them, too. We tradesmen should support each other in the arts.

This one's from Fortune: Poems:

Red Wing

Here's where they make the good work shoes
in the long brick buildings beside the road.
Shoes whose stitched, crepe-wedge soles
and full-grain, oil-resistant leathers
bless tiny bones in the ankles and feet, shoes
of carpenters balanced on roof beams,
electricians, farmers, iron workers, welders -
cuffs frayed with sparks from the torch.
At shift's end the socks emerge tinged
pale orange, tops of the arches crisscrossed
with lace marks, propped up in front
of the six o'clock news. Here's to the sweet
breath of pond mist filling the lungs of summer.
Here's to baked beans and twelve hours off.
Here's to dust from the trucker's shoe, dust
he stepped into three states back.
Here's to shingles, aluminum flashing,
wall studs, rafters, ten-penny nails,
here's to tomatoes, onions and corn,
here's squatting down and here's reaching over,
here's to the ones who showed up.

(From Fortune, copyright © 2007 by Eastern Washington University Press.)

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