Feminine touch

Clemens Starck of Oregon has 50 years’ experience working with his hands, as a merchant seaman and then a carpenter, and he knows work and working people. Here’s a typical poem, from his collected poetry, “Cathedrals & Parking Lots,” from Empty Bowl Press.

The Girl from Panama

I’m talking with Mike over coffee.

His wife recently left him. He’s lonely.

We’re both carpenters, a couple of old guys in baseball caps

plying the trade.

We can frame a wall and hang a door, we can

read a set of blueprints.

But when it comes to women . . .


I’m thinking about my mother, who is 91

and very frail. I’m thinking

about my wife, my daughters, my granddaughter,

my sister, old girlfriends, my ex-wife,

and the girl from Panama

in the reading room of the New Orleans public library

forty-five years ago

who slipped a note to me across the table, asking:

“Are you a philosophy?”


Rain splatters against the storefront

of the coffee shop. Mike and I are silent

for a long time

before going back to work.