Jacob Mckibbin

Jacob Mckibbin

The Subcontractors

This yard is washed up with tools,
frayed polyrope, waterbottles

refilled so many times they have lost
their shape. The first week

they were instructed to paint the wall
with black tar, the sun burning

the back of their necks
until their skin was like a surface

irredeemable from its rust.
It is their rule to never admit

to being burnt, and never to possess:
even the tools they carry each morning

down the driveway they do not own
yet each time they turn over a paving slab

they are in awe of the way their bodies
feel like they belong more to themselves

the harder they are worked. Their ritual
is to force the battery from the digger

when their van will not start.
They all push, applaud the one who first

hears the spluttering, who emerges
with one foot sunk into the half-ditch

half-hedgerow, one hand
indicating the width of the drive.

The open extension is where they come
to urinate, around the yellow bucket dark

piss darkens the dust, against the bare
concrete the sound of their trickling

is like the sound of rain, like the sound
of burnt men who work together to recreate

the sound of rain in months too dry to rain.

JACOB MCKIBBIN is poet from Oxford. His poems have appeared in The Rialto and The Interpreter’s House.