A Change

At first it’s your hands, blistered,

mat studs making soft flesh

raw, your back, pulling, heaving,

splintered, like working against

a wall, and your shoulders, tight,

burning, not strong enough.

And it’s everywhere. After a week,

two weeks, you just know. You’re

done or you’re not. If you’re not,

nothing changes. A buzzer goes

off, mats flop out of a dryer, hot,

rubber, acid. You tear them apart,

pass them over to the folding guy.

Another buzzer, more mats, don’t

want to let go. One month, two,

your baby flesh is hard, mean,

calloused. The buzzers buzz, the

mats drop out, but the body 

learns how to twist, the feet how 

to plant, pivot, the hands grip.

Eight hours, ten hours, twelve,

it doesn’t matter, you know too

much. You look back, when

you were virgin. You wish

for something, a nail pressed

through rubber you don’t see,

tearing across your palm,

enough so your grip changes,

the system of muscles shifts,

over one, a rookie again. A

day, a week, it’s all you need.

Born in Ontario, Michael Meagher is currently a British Columbia-based landscaper and roofer whose poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in journals such as Queen’s Quarterly, PRISM international, The Antigonish Review, Freefall, The Prairie Journal, Misunderstandings Magazine and Qwerty. He recently took a year off work to complete an English degree at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia.