The morning crew

goes to work in darkness:
at San Jac and 24th
too tired to stand straight they
slump, shoulders almost touching
but not quite
men dressed alike in orange vests
hardhats—cliché, but comforting
to see the familiar white: they are
a job, an action, a thumb-worn
dollar purchasing a one-way bus pass—
heading to a skeletal building where
every room inside is floodlit
and the hammers sound all night.

Mist gathers, rises from the creek.
Cicadas and traffic mingle.
The morning wraps hot arms
around the city.

Where do they come from, these
men? They ride every bus, wait
at every corner. Their work never
ends. The city spreads out and up,
roads, sidewalks paved to accommodate
millions in this desert town,
hard materials (sounds: cement,
concrete, ceramic, steel) hardening
their palms. They’ve touched
everything here except one another’s
hands, arms. Gloves in between.
They are men: they do not
do that. They know the smooth lines
of a truss bridge, or the swell
(sudden, satisfying) of foam
insulation, the gun nozzle tipped
with dew. Tufted weeds between
slabs of brick and stone.
They know what the city feels like.

Across the street their orange vests
flash. Red streetlights change to green.
And as they make their way to work
the bus follows its
own way through the city,
its other quiet passengers’
faces reflected in the windowpanes
we pass too fast to register
ourselves staring back,
the glass too grimy to let us
see precisely what we want,
details in the architecture
lost even as the sun begins
to rise.


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