40 on Black

I used to swing a hammer
for an old man who
brought his dog to the site.
he’d tie him up all day,
the poor pooch,
just sitting there smiling
as we worked in the
burning sun,
on the roof where I could
taste the stale beer
on my tired, ugly breath.

but the kept dog smiling.

the old man paid us Fridays.
some of us came back Monday
asking for an advance.

“what happened to your cash?”
the old man would ask.

“what do you think old man?
forty on black got me again.”

the old man’s gaze would lower
to the dirty clefts of my shrunken
limbs;
but he never scoffed,
and he never yelled,
just swung his hammer
like the rest of us:
no booze
no whores
no drugs
no Jesus.
just an old Black pickup
and us bastards swinging
our hammers,
waiting for the moon,

so the dog can keep smiling.

**debut book out in just a few days: Kindle available now!

**this poem was originally published in Painted Cave Student Journal Santa Barbara

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