Surely who I am today is at least in part due
To the long hot dusty days
Spent by my dad Ernie
Back from the war
Behind the wheel of a cement truck,
Browned left elbow hanging out the driver’s side window.
You’ve seen these trucks on the road and at construction sites
Monster-looking vehicles with their spinning bellies loaded…
And also due to the years he spent running the batch plant
A giant industrial blender for mixing a slate-colored batter of Portland cement
With limestone gravel
(He used to bring home ones with sea bottom fossils-I wish I still had them-)
And cool brown sand
All by the ton,
Wet with icy artesian water.
Such is cement.
And there were many days spent after work
-Side jobs- forming the walks and ways,
Pouring the cement and raking the oozing mounds flat
Then bull floating the eddies of wet heavy slop smooth
Edging and troweling driveways, patios, and carports.
I was there, in sneakers with cement crusted toes
Back then in America,
Back in a land that was paved with man made conglomerate rock.
We were getting ahead.
I knew because
His dry cracked hands held the paychecks.
His hair was dusted a gritty theatrical grey
His bald spot protected from the sun by a straw
“Go to hell hat”
His arms and neck branded red by the high Ohio summer blaze,
Forming a negative-white
T-shirt on his skin.
He worked for us
And in his way, made a better life for me and my brothers.
So I went to college, got an education
In part so I didn’t have to labor my whole life long
(Although we did our share off and on, in the construction trades)
And when I came home on school vacations
I could always smell the sweat and concrete in his grey-stained coat
And feel his raw parched hand, desiccated by lime,
Placed gently on my shoulder…
It was a part of him, this rock and dust
And it is part of me
This mix of blood and cement,
Passed from father to son.