A half-moon huddle of guys
in front of used tire shop–
grease-rimmed nails, calloused hands,
jeans riding low t-shirts bearing the brunt
of their work. Cigarettes pinched
between middle fingers and thumbs,
they alternate between long drags
and swigs of fresh coffee
from extra-large Styrofoam cups.
Driving to my desk job
in the simmer of summer
air chilling my bare arms,
I vow to one day roll down
the windows and linger at stop sign
to catch their words, wait for an invite
into their circle, a chance to wipe
grease on my jeans, feel sweat rolling
down my spine as I lift tires, tighten
a lug nut, revel in ache of muscles strained,
sit on stack of tires during break
tracing the outline of shop manager’s tattoo.
The air thick with rubber would burn my nose,
but his lips would be the sweet coffee of daybreak.
In a bright blue bowl, she mixes
cement from purple to pink
explains the process
through a paper mask,
glasses poised on tip of her nose.
She fills a tray and holds
it against my top teeth
waiting for it to set white.
Brushing pieces of hardening
cement from my chin, she says
she reads poetry at night.
Neruda in Spanish
Rilke in German
takes notes on translations–
cadence changes, nuances,
She tugs on metal tray to release
bond, grabs another bowl
and begins mixing again–
if you don’t know who Langston Hughes is, you’ve never read poetry.
Dawn Leas’s work has appeared in Literary Mama, San Pedro River Review, The Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. Her chapbook, I Know When to Keep Quiet, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010). A collection of her poems can be found in Everyday Escape Poems, a SwanDive Publishing anthology (2014). Her collection, Take Something When You Go, was recently published by Winter Goose Publishing. She earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University where she’s currently assistant to the president.