How Hard

By Guy Thorvaldsen

He stands, absorbs the amber light

of a fall afternoon, takes in

the resonant hum of silence:

saws, vacuums, compressors

having come to rest—

a particular peace

for those whose hands have created a thing

that before, wasn’t.

Next to him on the marble front stoop

stands his customer, whose job in the world

knows no such discrete endings.

She claims 40 dollars an hour is too high;

4 days too much time.

“I mean, how hard could it have been?” she asks,

then glances at her iPhone.

He sees beyond her, to the street,

follows a boy coasting by on a bike, no hands.

Waits 60 seconds to answer

while he figures it’s about as hard

as the 57 measurements

and the 26 compound miter cuts.

As hard as the 48 counter-sunk screws,

and the 21 times his knee tendons clenched

as he knelt to the floor for a better angle,

each time bearing the weight of 30 years on the job.

As hard as standing 8 hours straight

—but not really straight—until the 800 milligrams

of Ibuprofen kick in, ease each of the 5 herniated discs.

As hard as lying awake for 3 nights, pondering alternatives

to the 81 calculations necessary

to dream up, to build, then mount

the one cherrywood cabinet,

affix the 6 finger-jointed, leaded glass doors,

according to this customer’s single instruction

to make it look delicate,

as if floating in air.


Guy Thorvaldsen’s poems have appeared in Alembic, The Aurorean, Barefoot Review, The First Day, McNeese Review, Gulfstream,  Perfume River Poetry Review, and Verse Wisconsin. He received his MFA from Vermont College and his carpentry creds on the job.

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