The gentle fears he tells me of being
afraid to climb back down each day
from the top of the unfinished building.
He says: I’m getting old
and wish each morning when I arrive
I could beat into shape
a scaffold to take me higher
but the wood I need
is still growing on the hills
the nails raw red with rust
still changing shape in bluffs
somewhere north of my mind.
I’ve hung over this city like a bird
and seen it change from shacks to towers
It’s not that I’m afraid
but sometimes when I’m alone up here
and know I can’t get higher
I think I’ll just walk off the edge
and either fall or fly
and then he laughs
so that his plumb-bob goes awry
and single strokes the spikes into the joists
pushing the floor another level higher
like a hawk every year adds levels to his nest
until he’s risen above the tree he builds on
and alone lifts into the wind
beating his wings like nails into the sky.
~ ~ Patrick Lane
From Selected Poems 1977-1997. Harbour Publishing, 1997. With permission.