for Bill Pattengill
on a lower perch than your clients in the money-tree,
but nobody echoes in their new rooms before you.
It's around you the walls close like blossom-petals
because you planted them.
So no matter who else comes in
they're second, even the ghosts.
And you're the first
to step out over air on new joints
and the last to feel the fear of heights
on what in a day's work becomes a hum-drum floor.
And sometimes on roof-rafters
naked to the light like stripped rib-cages
or on a slim beam high up over the job-site
you bump into a tree-branch that never before felt a human.
I know a man who fell
off a roof he built,
and as he crashed through the branches that saved him
got religion and quit smoking
and raising Cain in the bars and turned to Christ
of all deities
who dropped carpentry for bigger things
and was killed in a grove of three trees.
Richman is a poet, playwright and carpenter in San Francisco. This
poem is from a forthcoming collection, entitled "Farming San Francisco."