for Ashley Langdon
Through his window of work he moves,
muscles flexed, then relaxed as doves
before the season comes in
to make them fly faster and higher.
In summer he wears shorts with holsters
for tools he grabs with ease as if to toast
the sunup to be the east’s chief clerk.
He’s already on the ladder, at work.
For a scant second, he sees me
arrive to say good morning.
Then he looks at the grill by Meco
And says, “Sometime we need to cook some hot dogs.”
For him sweat and sunset come on time.
He takes off his tool-belt and climbs
down his ladder against the fake well’s
roof he made to honor the real
one when the plankhouse was pulled
back in the meadow by two
mules, Black and Gray, whose withers
especially quivered like strings on a zither,
music similar to the carpenter’s
pulling a tendon in the center
of his left leg, in the calf.
He chooses jobs on that behalf,
threatening hurt; the purple martins
circle his head as if they park
in air to be part of the show,
a quiet tribute to this house on Sanders Road.
Without alarm those who enter the doors
he fixed to open good and the windows
he prepared in rooms all by himself,
the low-silled window lights bereft
of memories to all who did not
live here, father, mother, sister; the rot
of loneliness and neglect of furniture
he joins in the center of muscle’s curvature.
He admits he remembers tidbits
of life here he restores a little
at a time; then he stops by often
to check on the place visitors welcome.
Shelby Stephenson was poet laureate of North Carolina from 2015-2018. His most recent book: Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill (Press 53)
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