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.