Laurence Lieberman - “Hard Hat Limbo”

Seventeen men and boys in shiny yellow hardhats, bunched in the rear
stall of Dodge Pickup, bob over the bumps—their heads lolling
in sync like a jiggly bouquet of human dandelion blooms.
The driver floors the throttle in low gear: roars—
inchingly—up the steep grade. Halfway
to a hilltop, great swirls
of rain, little cyclones of gush, come
whipping down on the truck, and the laggard crew
howl in chorus, halting the transport car on the spot—
as if they’d whunked into a deer or calf, so sudden a braking
and tire burn of rubber. The workers cheer the foreman driver, who

starts to coast backwards down the hill. No work today, the shriek
with glee. Hard rain’s gonna fall, gonna fall, they rasp & growan
in Bob Dylan guttural croaks. Rain puddles would loosen
their road tars & wall mortars, spoiling the seal.
Ah, they’re all of one mind, so prone
to hot-tail it back home
for sweet holiday. The man at the wheel
coasts downhill and brakes in lunges, reversing
his gears, at last, as if waiting out the quick-switch
of weather. And no sooner does he speedup the backout, all rain
quits, cloud overcast cracks open like an axe-riven coconut, and Sun

pours forth its Golden Milk. Back into forward gear, zip-zip, cranks
the bossman to a fizzle of heartsick jeers from his men. Stolen
holiday! Lost, O lost, they bleat, a flock of betrayed
sheep. They scale hill steeps once more, leveling
out on the top of the rise, and worse
rain squall bears down—
to ecstatic hurrahs of the men, another
truckload of crew bringing up the rear…Both halt
and reverse. Rain whirligigs to shine. And a tug-of-war
between work and play resumes, yellow hardhats trapped in limbo,
hollers of joy fade to grunts: no play, no work. Six hour cul-de-sac….

“Hardhat Limbo” appeared in Carib’s Leap:  Selected and New Poems (LeedsUnited Kingdom:  Peepal Tree Press, 2005) by Laurence Lieberman.  Copyright © 2005 by Laurence Lieberman.