Both are slender; one is already high.
You watch as he steps on his wire legs,
from batten to batten, pauses, steps,
like a grazing antelope. And you feel
somehow they own the morning
which is poised and still, your house-to-be
a row of blond isosceles triangles
on its immense blue page. Pfut-pfut,
and small puffs of smoke jump from
his air-hammer; nails clinch home in a spasm.
Then, when suddenly he monkey-scales
the 50 mil edge of a truss, you mutter,
involuntarily, ‘But he'll fall’, realizing,
obscurely, your concern is a middle-class
disclosure. ‘Mnah! Believes
he's an angel', replies his offsider, hefting
a dozen tiles to his shoulder, steadying them,
then climbing a flimsy gangplank. ‘Don't you’,
he flings back, ascending, erect as a sapling,
or folding round the axis of his body. You watch,
exhilarated at how technique folds away
into physique, how the brain's gyroscope
is the angel obeyed here, indeed by all
who work at angles to the world. Not that gravity
is auspicious, as, with oaths and swagger,
they handle aloft their tile-stacks which are
the same terracotta colour as their shoulders.
Clippers, claw hammers swing from their belts
like auxiliary limbs, and the sub-text of
their banter, which you're meant to overhear,
is — To fix you your roofline, customer,
we will dance on air carelessly. Up there
our view of humans, which, I guess,
just might include yourself, is that we
are the species can walk on any theory
strung across an empty space. So come on up.
And you would, naturally, were it not that … what?
somewhere in your life you mislaid your angel.