We crack the fresh pop-tops
from the garage refrigerator,
an avocado-colored refugee from the 1970’s
still humming. He takes a good
long pull from his, a lager watery and weaker
than the darks and stouts I’m used to. He says light beer
helps him keep his edge. After two more sweat-beaded
cans he begins to open up. Talks about
the young nuns at his Catholic high school,
fantasizes about the sleek white swimsuits
underneath the layers of black and grey,
says he hates church, prefers the marsh
at sunset, swears he and a buddy saw Satan
in a a denim jacket and eyes like sparklers
drinking in a tavern at the Illinois border in 1972.
He tells of the teacher who chastised
him for watching ditch diggers
from the classroom window, how she told
him that was all he’d amount to.
He asked her what were they doing
that was wrong? Where was the crime
in irrigation? As I’m taken aback
by the dignity of that response,
he goes on to say that years later
when he found himself at the roadside
laying pipe, deep in soil, he wished
that same teacher would drive past.
He would raise his shovel in the July sun
shouting in personal victory, “I’ve made it!
I’ve finally made it!”