Needlework by Emily Mohn-Slate


          “The father had been wise to show them before his death that work is a treasure.”
                                                       — Jean de la Fontaine, Le Laboureur et ses Enfants

Next door, men cut off the trees’ hands. Their machines hum
            as they work. A woman drags a line of children two-by-two
                        straining under the weight of giggling bodies.

People say — This is how the world works.
            At the gym, the manager watches someone else
                        buff an already spotless floor.

My father told me to do what I loved to do — one third of my life
            will be work. Every day, he arrived home ashen,
                        hiked the basement stairs broken by long pauses.

I lick a sympathy card shut, drop it in a blue box
            and the cows are knee-deep eating green.
                        I give an A, a B- , a C+. This, the sum

of our work, but not why —
            the men pile lifeless branches into the truck bed.
                        I think I hear them singing.

A woman drags a hose to water the leaves along the wall,
            leaves no one will see, under a highway behind a hotel gate.
                        I watch her from my treadmill through a glass wall.


Emily Mohn-Slate’s recent poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, DIALOGIST, Poet Lore, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She was runner-up for the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize. She holds an MFA from Bennington College, and teaches writing at Chatham University and Carnegie Mellon University