"Waiting for Lumber"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 16 2002 1:05 PM

Waiting for Lumber

Listen to Mark Turpin reading "Waiting for Lumber" Somehow none of us knew exactly what time it was supposed to come. So there we were, all of us, five men at how much an hour given to picking at blades of grass, tossing pebbles at the curb, with nothing in the space between the two red cones, and no distant downshift of a roaring truck grinding steadily towards us uphill. Someone thought maybe one of us should go back to town to call, but no one did, and no one gave the order to. It was as if each to himself had called a kind of strike, brought a halt, locked out any impulse back to work. What was work in our lives anyway? No one recalled a moment of saying yes to hammer and saw, or anything else. Each looked to the others for some defining move—the way at lunch without a word all would start to rise when the foreman closed the lid of his lunchbox—but none came. The senior of us leaned against a peach tree marked for demolition, seemed almost careful not to give a sign. And I, as I am likely to do—and who knows, but maybe we all were—beginning to notice the others there, and ourselves among them, as if we could be strangers suddenly, like those few evenings we had chosen to meet at some bar and appeared to each other in our street clothes—that was the sense— of a glass over another creature's fate. A hundred feet above our stillness on the ground we could hear a breeze that seemed to blow the moment past, trifling with the leaves; we watched a ranging hawk float past. It was the time of morning when housewives return alone from morning errands. Something we had all witnessed a hundred times before, but this time with new interest. And all of us felt the slight loosening of the way things were, as if working or not working were a matter of choice, and who we were didn't matter, if not always, at least for that hour.

Mark Turpin is a carpenter. His first volume of poems, Nailer, appears in Take Three: Agni New Poets Series No. 2.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?