"I'm sorry,"
the novelist apologized—
"my story has a beginning,
middle and an end." Then she commenced
her explication of

the tapestry hanging on the wall.
Usually these large, time-faded rectangles
of textile
woven in the fourteenth century
depict some martial glory; two armies
bivouacked on a plain
beneath the fluttering pennants of their lords;
knights galloping on horseback, a sky
crisscrossed by arrows.

Or sometimes, a damsel and her maids are
picking flowers in a glen
while from the left, the fiend
disguised as an old peddler
approaches on a mule—

But in this case, a construction site
is what we get—
giant yellow bulldozers
and dirty trucks
arrayed around a squared-off hole
of scraped-out, reddish dirt—

Down in the pit, the foreman
is shouting into a shoe-box sized, old-fashioned
He's telling the crane operator
to dump the thick grey porridge of wet cement
from the mixer
into a long chute
for the foundation—
It's a cool tapestry,
because you can see such detail;
the lines around the boss-man's eyes
and the half-crushed packet

of cigarettes in his front shirt pocket
that marks him as a proletariat
of another era.
A sort of young guy
considering the responsibility he has,
yet not too old
to take pleasure in the work,

and he likes this part,
where the grey oatmeal of the pour
gushes clumsily from the rough
gutter of the pipe
into the maze of
wooden troughs and molds—

As in a scene from Moby Dick,
the men, armed with poles and spades, are staged
around each trench and ditch
to herd the concrete into place
before it sets—
That's why this part is called "The Push"—

and one feels the beauty of these guys
engrossed in the alert companionship
of work
—laughing, cursing, joking in the sun—

I like this tapestry—
It's not that I know these men, or
know how to run one of these great blue
smokestack-belching tanks.
It's not that something bad is going
to happen
to teach us all a lesson. There is
no "behind" or "underneath"—

But in the background
your eye is drawn to
an iron ladder fastened to a wall,
which is strange until you see, high up
the narrow metal door it leads to,
and now I can explain

the anxiety I feel about
the time it took to get here—a shame
about the dreaminess I have indulged
throughout my life
that caused me to forget just what was happening—

Behind me in the distance
I can hear some people
who used to be my friends
saying something about the
problem of language in our time

but I don't care. For me
the story is
the feeling of the rungs, one by one,
pushing up into the arches of my feet,
the chilled bars of metal in my hands,
the dusty smell of morning
turning into afternoon,—

as I climb to see just what the world
has brought me to.