I have one carpenter an alcoholic who’s drinking again
             He whacked his wife good got a court date today
             She may not show up if he goes back to A.A.
             He’s desperate now so he’s only smoking pot

Another lumper a Vietnam Vet can only work alone
             He’s afraid of heights and can’t be trusted
             Near anyone with a hammer or nail gun
             We use him for clean-ups and dump runs

By the end of the week the new kid from the tech
             Who knows more than the rest will be fired
             His dad used to beat him, won’t be told what to do
             He’ll say his boss sucks & move to Florida

Summer I’ll hire that student from the community college
             Whose Dad was a carpenter & died when he was 6
             He is slow but meticulous has a new girlfriend each week
             He’ll have one pregnant by August and transfer to full time

My foreman’s in rehab withdrawing from heroine and crystal meth
             He’s the best I’ve got his wife picks up his checks
             She says he was molested by a priest as a kid
             That he’s not a bad guy if only he could stay clean

Before mid-spring I’ll need more help & hire a half dozen
             Helpers unskilled from the labor temp agency
             Two will work out and stick around for a while
             Unlike their parents who too are in rehab

One new hire will learn fast replace the foreman one day
             Thank me for teaching him a trade that pays
             And giving him a chance to prove himself
             Something the folks in the foster home never did

Others will quit steal tools start their own business
             Take down payments never do the work
             File for bankruptcy and keep the funds
             Pay off gambling debts instead of get-rich-quick

Some will be replaced by divorced union carpenters from the city
             Who’ll say they moved to Cape Cod for the slower pace
             Ask to be paid cash under the table or can’t work
             While somewhere in Boston his kids are hungry

Another kid from the tech will eventually come along
             Hungry to show that he’s one of the guys
             He’ll spend 10 minutes in the trailer looking
             For the wood stretcher the journeyman sent him for

Next week that same journeyman will cut off his finger
             On the table saw while wearing OSHA approved
             Eye goggles after bragging about the safety course
             He took and how many year’s experience he has

Before the year is out and our building projects complete
             The rookie will start dealing pot this summer, get arrested
             The journeyman will switch careers selling insurance
             And the foreman might not make it thru withdrawals

Of those who stay on
All will ask for a raise.


José Gouviea is a poet, journalist & poetry radio personality who lives on Cape Cod. He is Poetry Curator at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, author of the Meter Man poetry column for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper in Hyannis, and host of the Poets Corner poetry radio show out of WOMR-FM in Provincetown. José’s reading of this poem was recorded at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Event hosted by Stone Soup Poetry.

Oddball Magazine has published poems by José as well as tributes to him in order to raise awareness of the Joe Gouveia Recovery Fund, an effort to help offset the costs of the poet’s upcoming cancer surgery.