William Notter, "On the Come-Along"




I want to call out like a foreman

Muck that mud!  Pull that wire!

every time I pass a mixer truck

and laborers spreading concrete

with come-alongs—wide-bladed hoes

they use to push and pull the mud,

filling a form’s wood frame so finishers

can level and work the surface smooth.


The wet, gray mix is denser than anything else 

you can shovel, rake, or hoe,

and heavy.  Imagine raking clay.

A day behind a come-along can cause nostalgia

for shoveling out a barn.


That concrete summer I weighed

140 pounds in boots.

Mornings, crowded into the boss’s crew-cab,

I saw the sun come up on sagebrush hills and corn,

evenings watched it turn the range grass gold.

My hands would wake me up at night,

asleep themselves, the pins and needles weight

stiffening up each forearm, fingers clenched

involuntarily, gripping a handle still.



William Notter's collection Holding Everything Down received the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and the High Plains Book Award for Poetry, and it was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. His poems have appeared on NPR's The Writer's Almanac and in journals including Alaska Quarterly, AGNI Online, Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, Folio, High Desert Journal, Lake Effect, The Midwest Quarterly, and Willow Springs. He has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Nevada Arts Council.