The Roofer Stays Up

by Jim Zola
The Waters
Second Place (Tie), April 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum

I sit atop this roof after the last
shingler has tossed his last wisecrack
to no one. Across the street, a couple
hesitate in the doorway between
the hushed dark of the house, a brush
of streetlight. I suppose they are lovers
because I am alone. I suppose
that when they spill into the furnishings
of their lives, they’ll touch at the wrist.
Just as I suppose this night will stay
like lovers who stifle their cries
with silk scarves because walls are thin,
windows left open. By morning,
when others arrive, I’ll say
I came in early to avoid the heat.

The subtlety of this poem is what drew me in. The voice is unassuming and its honesty accretes power, as in the lines, “I suppose/that when they spill into the furnishings/of their lives, they’ll touch at the wrist.” The speaker’s observation, here (steeped in metaphor) and elsewhere, brims with insight without being showy or heavy-handed. The diction of the poem is also simple, the lines spare and restrained, all of which makes the existential condition of the speaker (“I am alone”) all the more moving. --Shara McCallum