How Little Time, How Long: Diptych
The Ivy and the Brick
As usual, it was nothing of great consequence
that made me stop. This time, ivy grown thick
between columns of windows on a brick building
that looked a few hundred years old.
It wasn’t the sweat starting to collect at my temples
and throat, only eight in the morning,
no breeze yet and the hazy air refusing
to succumb to the sun. It wasn’t the weight
of the golf bag slung over my shoulder
as I walked up the path to where my son
would tee off for a tournament. Just the ivy and brick,
how little time it takes for ivy
to fill an empty space, how often it must be pruned
to keep windows clear, and how long
it must have taken to learn how to make brick.
How necessary the clay and the fire,
and the manual labor before machines.
How hard we work to build and maintain,
how easily we tear things down; how hard
it would be to wake to a world blown away,
how much easier to play a round of golf,
even if it had to be with a hickory shaft
and rusted iron for a club and boiled goose feathers
covered with bull’s hide for a ball.
The Clay and the Fire
I see diggers winning clay with hand shovels,
preparers working and pugging it,
clot molders shaping rough lumps, brick molders
dashing those into beechwood casts,
trimming the excess with strikes, then stackers
stacking bricks herringbone in the sun,
edgers with their clappers, stackers again, stacking
in a hackstead covered with straw.
I see fire in scove kilns, low heat for two days,
bricks yielding their watersmoke,
intense heat for a week, fireholes bricked over
for another week, the sorting,
clinkers going to garden paths, the perfectly fired
to the exteriors of buildings.
And here I walk along a clay path
toward a brick library to return this book
on the art of making bricks, wondering how long
it would take to rediscover the art—
if we could, if we would even want to—
that is, if we lost all our tools and books,
if had we reduced everything to rubble,
if we could actually do that to ourselves.