Before first light the men arrive
in their battered pickups, dented
from the in and out of heavy tools.
Jack Benjamin helps J.C. lift the power trowel
and strike the blades from yesterday’s pour.
The first sweat of the day is glistening,
the air still night cool when in the distance
the sound of gears, a concrete truck hitting speed
then slowing into the sandy gravel cut.
Once the first truck arrives there’s no stopping
the tsunami of mud,
the men adding as much water as I’ll allow
to get the weight to flow into the spaces
between long runs of rebar and steel mesh,
working with come alongs and wood handled shovels,
the chute roaring back and forth like an angry elephant
as the cylinder turns, the diesel motor strains
and the mass of concrete flops around in its womb
before dropping out in a surge.
The younger men move the cement,
jitterbugging rocks, pushing the dead weight
while J.C. and Benjamin drag the screed,
getting something near level on the first pass
before the mass begins to set.
Benjamin starts working the edges with his trowel,
flattening around the anchor bolts,
truck after truck rolling down the long country road
dumping its store then turning back
until the hole is filled and the slab is poured.
The harder work is done as the sun rises
and starts lifting moisture from the slab,
the concrete turning color as they lift the big trowel
onto the hardening edge, J.C. pulling the chord
until the two stroke turns,
throwing out a choke of black smoke
and the blades rotate, flinging an arc of slop –
so J.C. turns it off. It’ll take a bit more setting time
so he and the men go back to their edge troweling,
sweat pouring into their rubber gloves,
their boots thick with goo, their arms flecked with concrete
washed off with the truck’s hose along with the chutes,
the sun slowly rising, the long day just begun.







10 Responses to “Pouring a Slab Near Cane River”

  1. Lloyd Meeker says:

    Beautiful, Don – I love the firm focus of hard physical work shared, getting it done in time, all other considerations left for a break, or after. I wish I could join you and Will on Friday!

    I know it will be a fine and powerful event.

  2. Jude says:

    Men, Mud, Machines. I live atop and surrounded by men’s labors, labors in the predawn and labors in the hot sun.
    Humbling me. Debts to so many. Perhaps, simply gifts from so many. Could be honest pride creating that which lasts beyond their lives. They are still of use.

  3. Mel O'Hara says:

    Don… Simply brilliant….
    Poetry in motion !

  4. Great graphics Don, I ‘ve poured many a slab and this captures it wonderfully. Brings back memories of working with my dad. I loved the line
    ..roaring like and angry elephant.

  5. maria says:

    This gruntily depicts a very attractive aspect of masculinity! Gym-honed abs just can’t approximate the appealing firmness of male resolve and team work toward a higher goal.

  6. Bill Dare says:

    Nicely poured and finished, Bro.

  7. Pat Fitzsimmons says:

    Well Don, our shared experience stands taller than words on this one, my boots sit ready by the back door…

  8. Soma Hunter says:

    Like Uranda said when asked how did he know, he replied, “Because I was there!” Blessed are the men who know what you speak of in this beautiful poem, Don. They are my brothers and we know it. Although I won’t be in the room physically with you and Will and Clem tomorrow night in Portland, I’ll be singing my body electric with you in spirit as a man among men creating a place of safety and love for any and all men right here where I am. Thank you for your enduring brotherhood.

  9. Francine Elena Ladd says:

    You capture the essence that i remember as a Safety Officer in the field, the teamwork, the early morning hours, exposed to the elements, the brute force of labor required at times and the toll it takes on bodies, and predominately the men who rise to the call that’s needed. Nothing but deepest respect from me for those who toil in the construction industry where ever it leads, it certainly is the creative process -uniquely it’s own. On a personal note it was a pleasure watching after all those men and women working, keeping them safe, my job to see them through the day safely.

  10. Stan Grindstaff says:

    Primal. Earth-earthy. Titans shaping mountain ranges craggy & smooth. Elementals. Foundation building blocks. Sweat. Muscle. Coordination. Joy.

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