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.