Ed Pavlic


The ceiling moved & woke
you. The night gave none
of the heat away. Beads of sweat
inch & run slopes of skin. You ask yourself,
what about the hard work?
Before you knew what easy
pain becomes, you thought hard
work had to hurt. A stack
of sixteen pound block on the wall
at Jocelyn Steel. Not T-shirts that fell away
as you shoveled grease
from an acid wash on a Thompson
wire line. Impossible. Unthinkably easy.
Finger prints return
& the world steps back
with a few days break
from the brick pile. Breath thru slits
in the beak, death swoops thru ease in the age
of the body. You’ve read about hard times.
Not enough carbon compounds
in the universe to make half a hook worm.
No star is hot enough
til it explodes. Maybe the hard work’s done
for us. “No sweat,” your sister says,
& high-rails her truck thru Red
Oak. Said she knows an ice-cold stream
in the Rockies. Said, if she holds
her breath and dips in at the right spot,
the current braids her hair
& it feels like her head disappeared.
Hard work means elegance,
means it gets done
the way it has to be done,
the way silver people swim the brain
& move thru the pounded song.
Still awake & eyes closed,
this woman’s belly still haunts
the tip of your nose.
A deep breath domes
against your face & you hope
you’ll never cease to love
the way wet skin holds
the scent of smoke from the city.
In the unison of a chorus,
you feel distant millions of them awaken.
A change in tone
more than shade to the eye.
A rush of green light,
windplay, fingers thru tree tops
in a cloud-clean night.
The river’s back arched,
its silent face hidden beneath
our skin. Left
hand holds down the chord, right travels
circles in “Orange was the Color
of Her Dress.” If you did,
you know you’d wish
& they’d sleep, again, in the path
of your touch. So you don’t.
These are ancient & invisible hairs.

Ed Pavlic
“Sweat” is from Labors Lost Left Unfinished (Sheep Meadow Press, 2006).