Working in Reverse

Daniel Fitzpatrick grew up in New Orleans and now lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his wife and daughter. He studied Philosophy at the University of Dallas and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in several journals, including 2River View, Amaryllis, Panoply, Eunoia Review, Ink in Thirds, and Coe Review. He plans to finish his first novel this year. In addition to writing, he enjoys micro-farming, exploring the Ouachita Mountains, and kayaking the Diamond Lakes.


Working in Reverse

They were the first I’d earned,
the six dollars 
		digging up
the stump stuck in chain link
like an infant’s fingers in her father’s hair.

		I’d dragged the fir’s rough cuts
from the front yard, 
	where my father walked
	 with saw and ax among 
	     the four fresh fallen,
still green, bleeding, spicing the red autumn,
supple   knuckles   spreading   mellow   leaves,
		as in a boy’s brief nap 
on the afternoon.

		I’d dragged them down the oyster alley
to the grass
	       beside the cans 
	  upon the pile of pearl-stripped shells
where the old man sat shucking through the cool,
		swelling belly sweating through his shirt,
cropped chops grizzling decelerate sun.

The other one, 
thinner, 
	skull-cheeked,
chewing 
     the cigar 
	    long gone,
watched me from the fence
fretting his rag and bone 
			     forearms.

He asked 
 	     in his ash-
		           en cough 
as I passed,
did I wanna make five dollahs.

Sure 
        I said 
shying 
	from his set-
tled eyes

		out of my eight-year accent
to show what my sap hands 
	understood of shovels,
trying to sound striking the rigorous roots
	like dad did dealing with the other men.

	When we’d done
he set his wet 
	           stogie 
	      on the fence,
pressed the sweat-soft bill and more
             into my perfect palm,
said tell my mom to buy me a pop.

And I went away sad,
poor 
        from the second he’d spoken.

One thought on “Working in Reverse

  1. Mr. Fitzpatrick taught me high school english at Jesuit New Orleans back in 2015- 2016. If you see this message, I hope you are doing well and I have thoroughly enjoyed your poetry. I am looking forward to your first novel.

    Like

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