The first thing you do is check the building for square.

Below, hoary-headed masons, who’ve never laid

eyes on you, tidy away tools, shove lukewarm

bottles of stout between tight lips

and spy you prizing the dumb harmony

left by the lump hammer, trowel and plumb line,

slung to the bottom of an old tool-box-cum-stool

snapped shut just in time for lunch.

Depending on the weather, deal wall plates

slap or clonk into place. They’re butted together,

and what’s sticking out’s trimmed

by the teeth of a savage oil-spitting chain.

A ridge poll is offered up to the empty heavens.

But lean rafters, like joined hands, are

raised in reverence to Pythagoras,

who was one of us.

Now crackling felt is rolled out, bobbling along a lath.

With a pencil poised on one ear, you make your way

to the apex, careful not to puncture this sealed hold

of silence inside: quiescence to be sold, owned and passed

down to the youngest son.

Take your time as you alight from the lashed ladder, 

hit the ground before the evening’s first rain;

tomorrow you will do it all again.

Winter Visit

She will only say the new stove

was delivered and fitted for

a song, that the coalmen prove

novel, labouring on the yard’s steps

and cramped path bearing bags, nursing

them overhead and down onto their breasts

to feed the bunker half a ton.

But I only see her lugging

buckets, the skin round her thumbs

react to dust, hear on a cold

morning what the doctor said about

porous hip bones and then behold

my mother stoking up a house.