My son, Pat, was a sensitive poet with a ready wit. In my memoir, I've divided the sections by the seasons — summer/fall/winter/spring. I introduce each section with one of Pat's poems. The following is the poem for winter.
He called the boiler room and said,
"This is John up in the penthouse.
Come on up and crack the steam in."
So I took the cowhide gloves and walked
across the January parking lot
to the main building of the hospital,
stuck my key in the elevator and rode it
to the mechanical penthouse, third floor.
The door opened to show me the tradesmen
all caught up on a different pipe
like kids on the monkey bars.
I put the pipe wrench to the blue valve
and cracked it slow, remembering John's admonition:
"You've got a hundred'n twenty pounds of pressure
coming through there. Open it too fast
and it'll blow you through the fucking roof."
Steam sang through the pipes as the condensate
dripped from the new silver gaskets
onto the concrete floor, scribbling a lazy map.
A man lost his finger here on the original job
putting in the permanent air handlers,
and when I look up to check the steam gauge,
I see where his buddies drew a picture --
a severed digit with the brotherly words:
"Hey Tony, here's your finger."