In dust mask and ear muffs
he polishes the bumper bars
like an alchemist foundry man conjuring
gold from glowing coal. Miles upon miles
the bumper bars, injured and bruised,
shed their past lives and gleam
anew, reborn from amniotic flux.
Armed with an orbital sander
he strips back the paint to base metal
base plastic dust in the air.
Shining like a loose spear of sun,
he can see his face in it, essential, smiling
out of his labour, almost like a man
who knows one good thing.
I was eight or seventeen years old
and my job is to take the cow into the forest
I had a stick to poke the cow
and stir the grass for snakes
and I had the AK-47
and I sit in the shade
and the cow eating the grass
and the bushes shaking like a windy
when a big gorilla run out the trees
and charge me very angry
saying go way go way
and I couldn’t get the AK-47 behind me in the grass
and so I hit him with the stick a couple times
and he snatch the stick out my hands
and throw it down showing
me his big teeth and his big fists
and I very fright
and the cow see what happening
run over help me
still the grass in her lips
and the gorilla see the cow coming
and he run off in the jungle.
I like that cow.
She my favourite.
‘I will see you the day before tomorrow.’
‘No,’ I tell Miller, ‘you mean you will see me the day after tomorrow.’
He goes away and gives this much thought.
Later: ‘I will see you on the alternate day.’
I say, ‘Not the alternate day.’
‘What means you can’t judge a book by its cover?’
A man is not his superficialities.
Later, his considered answer: ‘In my case the judge looks
only to the fucking book.’
Resigned, perplexed, shyly proud of this new achievement –
‘I will see you the day after tomorrow.’