Monday, October 31, 2016


Hello Stranger 

His name was Carl and before he was
Even through the woodshed door coming
Into the kitchen he said, “Now what did
You do?” We’ve never met but I squint a
Moment closer to make sure we never have.
Carl is an electrician, I’m a carpenter,
This morning I drew a fast chopping
Blade halfway through a live-wire while
Cutting out a hatch door into the ceiling.
At first spark I stopped the sawzall. Now Carl
Is way up in the hatch fixing wire I never
Want anything to do with. It’s late in the
Day, he’s sweaty, punchy, clumsy for an
Electric man but it doesn’t bother me
Because I like him. Did immediately.
Something about the cheap post earring
In the right ear. Something about the
Beer gut, the headband, the nonstop ramble.
Turns out he lives eight miles from where
I was born; it’s been 25 years since I’ve
Met anyone who knows Mauserts swimminghole 
And a place called Clarksburg. “Shit, yes”
Is how Carl talks, beefy enthusiasm, as
He chips the porcelain pull switch sloppy
As ever and says he won’t charge me. As if
His life has any clue about paperwork.
Let’s get honest. Carl has turned 40. He
Is to be married at the end of the week
To his third wife who has two kids while
Carl has two of his own. They met at a
Country store. He bought beer and she was
The cashier. He returned every day after
Work until he gained up the nerve to ask
Her on a date. Like I said, I fell for
The guy too when he came in today walking
And talking through the woodshed door.


They said it was a heart
Attack but it weren’t no
Heart attack even though
We all seen the Rescue van
Out here and we hardly ever
Do and they pulled all three
Of his sons out of school and
Rushed them and the wife from
The Ames job real fast to the
Hospital in case it was the real
Thing but it was due to plowing
Just too much snow plowing and
Rotten weather and late nights
Riding these backwoods roads
That finally got to him just
Shy of 40 and putting on some
Extra weight and sudden like
His whole body seized up and
It must of given him a real
Scare because for a few years
Now he had turned into a regular
Son of a bitch, surly and pinched
And all cockeyed behind a beard
But since the scare and the doctor
Said take-it-easy it has been
Like when I first met him as
A boy now leaving his monster
Truck at home and walking the
Road along the river with his
Dog that he takes plowing with
Him and he waves and smiles and
The dog looks happier too


There was one stone
I set into the hut
That my neighbor Everett
Belden, a farmer, always
Remarked on liking specifically
When word of stone walls
Or such came up, “Now
There’s that white rock
You did that I like,” he’d
Always say and I can’t
Remember if I placed it
In special or it just
Came up in the pile that
Way, but now Everett is long
Gone and the hut is 10 years
Built and so is the boy who
I made it for and whenever
The story comes up he learns
A little more about Everett,
Things gone by and the love
For something done right


Bob Arnold

Once In Vermont