It was clear to anyone watching
which man was the master.
As crystal as the Carolina Summer sky,
stretched out, a turquoise canopy,
high above the working men.
It was not the owner of the mansion,
peeking through the big bay window,
spying on the progress of the work.
He was merely paying
for the privilege of witnessing perfection,
created by an artist-carpenter
coveted in the county.
It was not the young apprentice,
skillful though he was,
laying the planks on the risers,
hopping from board to board,
his crowbar and screw gun in hand,
sweating from the heat
rediating off the new deck,
the sun darkening his bronzed, blonde skin.
The measure for each puzzle-piece
had already been taken,
been laid out,
marked with the heavy lead pencil,
by another man.
It was surely not the boss-man,
his beer-barrel-belly bulging beneath
his sweat stained shirt,
his pig-pink face already scorched,
as he stood by his table-saw in the shade,
protecting himself from the high-noon July sun.
impatient for the specs,
“10 x 2 and 1/8!
3 x 4 and 1/2!”
shouted to him
by the old man,
who bent over the nearly completed staircase,
built narrower at the top,
widening through each step
down to the green grass carpet.
The last kick plate,
the last tread
waiting for the final touch,
just a nudge to the left…
You there, son.
Pry that piece out!
Too long by a quarter inch!”
The young laborer leaped to obey,
heedless of the old mans tape
hanging on the braces.
The mans sharp shout stopped him cold,
like a whip snap.
you kick my measure,
I’ll drill your knee cap
and screw your little toe
to that riser
so’s you’ll be part ‘o this porch
’till the house falls down
in green, moldy antiquity.”
cool in the live-oak’s shadow
“Best believe him, Boy.
I seen him do it!”
The master carpenter looked away
so the young worker would not see
the grin growing on his creased, whiskered face.
“Better to keep young ones guessin’.
No reason making learnin’ too easy.
Twas a struggle for me.
Let it be hard, too, for this big white-boy.”
Such vengeful thoughts came easy to him,
though Rachael chided her husband for it.
“Better to do as Jesus did,” she’d say.
But his father before him had kept
his eyes to the ground his whole long life
and he’d been much pleased to watch
his son Samuel
learn the craft and live his life
to be his own self,
with his eyes up and straight ahead
no matter who was passin’,
bowing to no man,
steppin’ ‘side to no one.
Free to climb,
by his own effort,
this new stair case,
crafted with the surety
of his well wrought artistry.
And no man dare dispute