Carpenters whose wives have run off
Are sometimes discovered weeping on the job.
But even then they don’ t complain of their work.

Whitman’ s father was a carpenter.
He was so happy hammering houses
That he jumped with a shout from the roof beam
And rolled with a yawp in the timothy.
This led his son to conclude wrongly
That all workmen are singers.

Whitman’ s father was weak.
He had trouble holding a job.
He hoped that the house he was working on
Would be lived in by a man more steady
Than he was, who would earn his sleep,
Dreaming easy under a sound roof
With no rain in his face.

Of course, there are bad carpenters everywhere.
They don’ t care if the walls don’ t meet.
“After all,” they argue,
“We’ re not building airplanes.”
But Whitman’ s father measured his nails.
Many mornings, clacking his plane,
He crooned a song to the corners,
Urging them on to a snug fit.
No needles of heat will escape through a crack
If he can help it, no threads of light.