Heavy Work

Portside Date:
Author: Lita Kurth
Date of source:

Heavy Work

By Lita Kurth



Cut a straight line

through concrete


Hold that

machine with muscled arms


Let it throb, whine

and grind

Cool it

with a hose


Now hack it

with a pick-axe

Jar every muscle

in your back


and fists


Hoist a sledgehammer

make a small quake

through vertebrae

that someone sitting on a porch can feel

a dozen feet away


Lift a chunk of concrete

twelve inches wide

five inches deep

Lift again



Don’t curse

the muscles along your spine

that know you’re fifty


Feel the rasp of rock

on tender

inner arm


already tough as hooves


Carry concrete rock

to wheelbarrow

lift and drop

balance the barrow

full of chunks

Don’t grunt


Roll it

Lift the handles



till the concrete budges, slides, falls

rattles, raises dust


Eat that dust

for twenty or thirty

more loads


Clear an area


by three feet


Pause for Pepsi

don’t complain

work four hours straight


Tee shirt wet in front

wet in back

Thank God

for cloud cover


Pack the hose

on the side of the truck

heavy-duty extension cords

back in their iron pocket


Fold the check

And put it in your shirt

start the engine

this is

what it takes

this is


Lita Kurth, MFA- Rainier Writers Workshop (PLU) has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations for fiction and Creative Nonfiction. “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” (CNF) won the Diana Woods Memorial Award (Lunchticket). She is co-founder of San Jose’s literary reading series, Flash Fiction Forum and teaches at De Anza College and in private workshops. A member of the Working Class Studies Association, she frequently presents at their conferences.

Source URL: https://portside.org/2023-09-01/heavy-work