Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Robert Walicki: Two Poems

Mining

500 feet below the ground, in a place we’ll never 
      see again,
We sweat water lines, pipe in bathrooms and showers
for miners. I shine torch flames to light my way
out of a ceiling, lined with mottled rock,
 
and down dug out tunnels of stone.
They haven’t bothered painting the walls,
because they’ll bulldoze everything
we’ve done. Every faucet handle and shower head,
 
the dizzying maze of copper lines,
every offset drain, snaking through walls and floors,
carrying the days of our exhaustion, the arthritis
in our knees, and all the beers we can throw back 
     in six weeks
 
to numb the pain of our breaking.
No one ever said we’d be leaving
the ghosts of our bodies here, in Ace’s bar,
in the 60 hour work weeks, in the slow walks
through the mud to our trucks.
 
They’ll bury us, after the miners have laid bare
the earth, cleaned  the coal under the mountain
we drive down, swing wrecking balls into the men’s
and women’s rooms, caving in break rooms,
and bunk beds, and the extension ladder staircase.
 
We’ll keep the black air we’ve breathed and the 
     memory loss,
remember the sound of those clicking cars in the 
     darkness,
the rush of water when we turned the valves on,
how every joint held. 
--

The Fluttering

I’m stumbling out of the dark and back down again,
winding out of the rutted valleys of the Mon,
ass crack of the world and broken roads,
 
past AJ’s Crane and the hundred other rusted necks
reaching for a sky I never wanted to know,
exhaust blowing fog into a morning the shade
 
of bruise and regret, passing lane headlights 
flashing slow like tired ghosts. No one
 here will ever say they never wanted this life,
 
only this flare of sore wrists, the years
of twisting pipes, diving into the dark
of underneath, of bleakness.
 
In every way, this is an act of disappearance,
but this muted morning, the men from local 27
are chatting about the weatherwoman’s breasts,
 
while outside, the air is losing its memory,
a rash of embers, flaming lights around the corner
by Irwin Iron where steel is burning, 
 
and the men there breathe it in. But today, I’ve 
     made it
here again, to this five story building, to crawl 
     under
another dirty sink,
 
into the wrecks of leaks, in ceilings where confetti
of rust rains into my eyes. We’re all one day closer,
the 64 year old plumber tells me.
 
And I think about my father, the same age as me
and a year away from his last heart attack.
The fast flutter in the center of my chest
 
as I stand atop a ladder, peer into the dark
above a wet wall, click my flashlight on.
 

Robert Walicki is a poet and licensed plumber who lives in Pittsburgh. His latest collection of poems Fountain is currently available from Main Street Rag Press.

Copyright 2020 Robert Walicki

7 comments on “Robert Walicki: Two Poems

  1. loranneke
    August 25, 2020

    “only this flare of sore wrists, the years
    of twisting pipes, diving into the dark
    of underneath, of bleakness.” —

    What imagery in those poems!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      August 26, 2020

      I agree, Laure-Anne. And Bob is not only a skilled poet, but he also represents a point of view sadly lacking in contemporary American poetry: the voice of the working man.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Judith
    August 25, 2020

    Hard-hitting poems, Bob. Great to see them here. (Thanks, Michael.) Damn, there’s a lot of dirty work involved making the world run. You make the hidden visible, and render the specifics as both riveting and tragic. Satisfaction when the joints held. And when the poem holds, as it does here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Huntington
    August 25, 2020

    Both poems pull me in to a world I can only imagine. The Fluttering takes me from there to my own musings on repetition and death. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David Ades
    August 25, 2020

    You take us right there, Robert! It’s wonderful to read your work here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jason irwin
    August 25, 2020

    love “The Fluttering!” excellent poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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