My father died almost six months ago. Mercury enters retrograde today. Almost one month ago, I ruptured a tendon in my finger. My teenager has an ear infection.
But today, I found bliss in the construction outside my house. UGI has been tearing up the street for what feels like months and today they were paving.
My father worked as a diesel mechanic for most of my childhood. He fixed trucks and equipment at Penn Jersey Paving and sometimes he would end up on the paving crew for a few days every summer.
The manipulation of hot asphalt, steam billowing off its lava-like surface, the rumble and vibrations of the trucks, roller, sweeper, planer, and of course the paver, pulled me into such nostalgia and comfort as the oily smell and the humidity wafted toward me. The rattle of the lift gate as the dumptruck rose, the care of the workers as they spread the material with gooped up rakes. Dirty, sweaty work. Yet so artful and requiring attention. A process that hasn’t changed in 40 years.
I wrote poetry about it. Multiple poems. About a paving crew.
The first talks about the dog and I watching them from the sun porch, and I ask who understands more. The second, is about the mundane circumstances that revive memories and bring emotions.
Let me share a line or two.
From the middle of “Asphalt”
“steam billowed in the sunlight
as pellets of oily gravel fell
as sweet as my spring roses“
From the opening of “Construction”
at the window
watching a man
carve the blacktop
And if you like videos, here is the paving crew at work.
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2 thoughts on “Asphalt and nostalgia: A recipe for poetry and emotional healing”
I know how you feel. Last week I was at a paving company. They were cleaning the asphalt paver with diesel fuel. They were wearing the blue work clothes. The smell was fantastic. Like sweet perfume. Miss your dad terribly.
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