I understand the Midwest: there is no substitute for work,
labor being the sacred art that transcends even grief.
What is madness, but belief that toil will not resolve conflict,
and an aversion to the sweat through which the Holy Spirit flows?
I understand the Midwest: no outward sign of strife or tears;
the stock pot never brought to boil that simmers on, each passing year.
The art of work is Midwest art; a beauty to be utilized,
from steady hands held firm despite a frailness to be disavowed.
I understand the Midwest, and the metaphor of Luther’s hands:
despite the drudgery entailed, the Lord’s work will be done.
And those whose hands are smooth, without a callous or a scar?
They tend to the demented souls who cursed, are unemployed.
I understand the Midwest: Sandburg’s rough Chicago smile,
the farmer’s tan, the sweat-stained cap, the sun-bleached overalls.
What is madness, but excuse for someone else’s hands
to lift your shovel, tote your bale, store up your share of coal?
I understand the Midwest: steam that blows the whistle there
must be imported from the coast; what’s native turns the wheel.
28 JUL 2005