His working life began with cleaning bricks
He'd lift them one by one and scrape them down
With mostly migrants, old Italians, Greeks,
Their forearms as thick as Christmas hams.
At lunch: spaghetti poured out from a thermos,
The talk, not rough or kind, of adult men,
The feel of brick dust scouring epidermis,
The unrelenting ache of labouring.
He spreads his teacher's hands as he tells this,
Hands for music, hands that help him speak.
Embarrassed, laughs, "I didn't last a week."
His head goes back, I watch him reminisce.
It's that old tale of boys becoming men;
Quite simply put, it didn't happen then.