We joked and blew on on our fingers

More frost was coming. A ladder, windbreakers

Caps and mitts, hammer, nails,

Measuring tape.  We scoured the wood pile

for the six longest heaviest hardwood

slabs and six good lengths of cedar.

We dragged the hardwood to the farmhouse.

Two by two we nailed them together

For three right angles, each with the weaker

Nailed into the end of the better.

That was the worst done, nailing

Stubborn hardwood slab to slab.

Each right angle then got two cedar

Hypotenuses, One each side.

We took care to make the ends fit;

No little corners to mar the balance.

Pee break.  The supports were made.

We drove six heavy spikes

Half through each brace to tie

To the wall, and started toenails

On the top piece. We shed layers

Of wool in the heat of hammering. 

Almost done.  Now to pencil three lines,

 four feet apart, each seven feet below

the eaves. Each brace was lifted into

place, hands below to hold it,

others above to nail it in,

with the join against the wall.  As strong

and elegant as any church.

We found boards for floorboards, nothing

much. Nailed them to the buttresses

to make a platform. We tried to shake it --

It was solid.  It called for a dance. 

It called for a beer and a joint, --unless

there was still time before lunch

to gather cement and water and sand

and trowels and hods and mix some mud

in the volkswagon hood we used for such things

and start chinking.  Autumn nineteen

seventy something, Rochdale Farm.


Jenifer McVaugh