Labor Day is a holiday in the United States, set aside to honor the dignity of labor. It also is the traditional end of summer in the U.S., albeit meteorologists and astronomers might not agree. Write a poem about work. It might be about a certain kind of work, or the avoidance thereof. It might be about a profession, from the world’s oldest to those not thought of yet. It might honor real laborers or legendary ones. Or, it might be about the idea of work itself.


Little Sophie’s Newest Fascination

She gets out her toolkit –
Complete with pliers, wrench,
Screwdrivers, hammers,
Paintbrush, and bubble gum.

Bubble gum?
Staple gun actually, but hey,
Whatever works. 😉

© copyright Marie Elena Good, 2013



Mighty Melvin Geldinfeld,
the pride of academia,
had a spare physique that spelled
a pimple with anemia.

He wheezed and sneezed and coughed a lot,
harrumphed with halitosis;
although a man, he seemed a tot
who had a bad prognosis.

But Melvin knew most every fact;
knew Oz from Osawatomie;
he knew why quarks and Quakers quacked
and even knew phlebotomy.

He taught at Harvard and at Yale;
at Oxford was in residence;
for kicks he brewed an English ale
and served it to French presidents.

He got a sense of deep euphoria
designing ladies’ panties;
he passed the secret to Victoria
so she could sell more scanties.

In life he was a Renaissance,
and death has not dispelled
the all-pervading ambience
of mighty Melvin Geldinfeld.

© copyright 2013, William Preston

314 thoughts on “PROMPT #118 – WORKING, WORKING

  1. Pingback: ………………….Fists……………… | Metaphors and Smiles

  2. Fists
    First there were her hands,
    peach and porous-
    Soft yet firm
    stern and adamant,
    supple and cupping
    strong and yielding
    scouring and nourishing;
    her petals of palm
    were a hollow for holding.
    Tiny infant body
    through stages of life
    till suddenly she chose…
    rose of motherhood wilted.
    A flower fallen decomposes
    becomes one with the ground
    where I grieve too early
    for one still alive
    but actively absent.
    peach and porous,
    first there were her hands.
    Copyright ©Hannah Gosselin 2013


    he swears his forte is setting
    matters straight,
    Working the red pencil,
    redesigning misdeeds and
    syllogisms premised illogically.

    “the world needs cleaning up,”
    he insists, “and we are lazy,
    too complacent. We need to work
    out the bugs. Strive! Strive!
    Be perfect!”

    long into long night
    he lies in bed proofreading
    Paul’s Epistles and some
    not-so-light Dante.


  4. This is another old poem I wrote for my dentist. Dentists work hard to care for our teeth, but they rarely receive praise for what they do.

    Where is His New Crown?

    Doing his job well
    often brings a frown,
    not a smile.

    The more thorough
    he is, the more likely
    the patient is glum.

    A new root canal is needed
    to replace an old defective
    one next to a small cavity.

    This and a new crown
    is not the good news
    She wanted to hear.

    But isn’t it good news
    that he keeps her
    teeth in good shape

    and the new root canal
    will protect her
    immune system?

    Where is her smile?
    That would be
    his new crown.

  5. Marie, That’s a wonderful vignette of a little mechanic. Funny thing is, I’ve seen some mechanics use gum as temporary glue. As you say, whatever works.


    when a machine
    runs, we call it working;
    but when it stops, we don’t call it

    copyright 2013, William Preston

  7. Lazy Limerick

    There once was a man from Kirk
    Who hated to go to work
    So he ducked his head
    And stayed in bed
    No longer has job to shirk

  8. Marie, I love your poem. With her work ethic and creativity Sophie should go far.

    William, your description gives a “you were there” feeling. I love the phrase, “a spare physique that spelled a pimple with anemia.”

  9. Home Work

    “You want to know what work is?
    I’ll tell you what work is:
    Work is work.”

    “Busy yourselves
    with the meaningful tasks
    you have set for yourselves.”

    Good wife
    sturdy and true
    busy in trivial works
    in the kingdom of hearth and home
    wonders if it’s been enough.

    “File me under “W”
    because I wonce
    a woman.”

    My Father Teaches Me to Dream, by Jan Beatty; The Workforce, by James Tate; The Secretary Chant, by Marge Piercy

  10. Pingback: Contemplating Labor Day | Two Voices, One Song


    The Prism
    By: Meena Rose

    Looking through the glass
    I see her hustle and bustle
    About in a kitchen preparing
    Dinner – never once turning her
    Back to the small voice seeking

    Dinner is set and everyone’s at the
    Table smiling and chattering as she
    Gazes upon him and the weariness in
    Eyes he works hard at shielding with
    A smile that never makes it all the
    Way up.

    The meal is done. It’s blessing spreads
    Warmth from within – his tension finally
    Easing as he relaxes into the couch nodding
    Off to sleep in the midst of American Idol
    Blaring and cellphones ringing and the little
    One screaming.

    She herds the chaos and restrains it to a
    Night’s slumber and then she tenderly
    Approaches her man covering him with an
    Afghan – a light kiss upon his brow;
    She retreats to her sanctuary and pulls
    Open her briefcase.

    The proposal is reviewed – she is certain
    That is what the company needs as she tosses
    In more diligence refining it to a glimmering
    Gem – her mind finally at ease, she heads
    Towards her nightly date with the bath
    Releasing herself.

    He rouses her out of the now cold bath and
    Wraps her in a towel lending his body heat
    To her cold form – two wan smiles exchanged
    As they head towards their bed. Her sigh,
    His naughty grin is all they could manage
    Before surrendering to sleep.

  12. F-4 Maintenance

    “Just show me the Tech
    Manual!”, my Dad told us that he
    told them every time.

  13. Pre-meditation

    Ah, the organized mind at work!
    Closing as manager, not a clerk.
    In rising, I can take some extra time,
    not due to return until nearly nine.
    As the rushing pulse of the the day subsides,
    the clarity of forethought soon presides.
    No desire to leave promptness to chance,
    all must be calculated in advance.
    While washing dishes (two days in growing)
    the pace abates, gradually slowing.
    And the organized mind, carefully thinking,
    while hands in dishwater ever sinking:
    “What better way to avoid mistake,
    than prepare tonight while still awake?”
    Coffee pot filled and stands complete,
    awaiting the first of morning heat.
    Egg salad ready to meet the bread,
    a little TV and I’m off to bed!
    As organized mind is laid to rest,
    calculates time to rise at best.
    Eyes must open by quarter-to-eight,
    to arrive by nine and not be late.
    Mind records day’s final deed,
    to awake refreshed, the time to heed.
    Morning light, it’s quarter of,
    mind is churning, time to move.
    Coffee’s lit, shower taken,
    dressed and combed; juice is shaken.
    Lunch is made, car is ready,
    mind awake, hand is steady.
    All those school buses still on the road?
    By now they should have dumped their load!
    Arrive at work, never late—
    the clock in the car says five to eight?
    Ah, the organized mind at work—
    an hour early, what a jerk!
    Ellen Knight
    9.1.13 for Poetic Bloomings, a work poem

  14. His Ranch

    David De Jong

    Coffee’s on, bacon’s fryin’ in the pan,
    The day will awake soon, its part of the plan.
    The choir has already started, each soloist perched in her tree,
    High time to get rollin’, crack The Good Book, bend a knee.
    The air is crisp, sun’s beginin’ to rise,
    It’ll be a good day – time to pack-up supplies.
    Coffee in the thermos, a sandwich and a cookie, for something sweet,
    No matter what you bring, when it’s eaten outside, it’ll be a treat.
    With a jug of fresh water, won’t be a need before sun-down to make the trip back,
    Even the dog gets a biscuit, down there, in the bottom of the sack.

    Some may call me crazy, some may call me the fool,
    I just smile at all the wonder, sittin’ on this stump for a stool.
    I consider it a privilege, a joy, to be workin’ this small branch,
    It’s the Good Lord’s alone; He holds the deed, to this here ranch.
    There’s no start, no finish, just, “do this, remember”, is what He said,
    So for His gift of life, I’ll gladly partake, I’ll work the land, I’ll taste the bread.

    Strand by strand feel the wire, as it’s pulled taught, post to post,
    Twisted, stapled, a boundary, a symbol, respected by most.
    The horses will smile with a sigh as they graze this new grass,
    Spring calves will soon join them, kicking their heels as they pass.
    Grass on the hill, fresh water a-plenty flowing through the creek,
    Each stone a monument; what would they tell, if they could speak.
    Would it be of horses grazing long ago, bareback riders, or a sleepy toad?
    Would they remember the buffalo, the wolf, the pioneer along the road?
    Friends and enemies, family and foe,
    All pass this ranch, we all have to go.

    Some may call me crazy, some may call me the fool,
    I just smile at all the wonder, sittin’ on this stump for a stool.
    I consider it a privilege, a joy, to be workin’ this small branch,
    It’s the Good Lord’s alone; He holds the deed, to this here ranch.
    There’s no start, no finish, just, “do this, remember”, is what He said,
    So for His gift of life, I’ll gladly partake, I’ll work the land, I’ll taste the bread.

    The clouds pass majestic, as they can be,
    Never the same are you allowed to see.
    A storm begins to brew, with a wind from the east,
    Those same clouds churn and turn, to a mighty beast.
    The rain pours down, and with a crack of lightin’ to the ground;
    The fence is down, and herd runs free, fleeing the thunderous sound.
    With rain runnin’ down my back, from the brim of my hat,
    I laugh at the dog, lookin’ like another drowned rat.
    He’s full of life, content, happy as can be,
    There’s nowhere else, he’d rather be.
    Much the same myself, I must admit,
    This doesn’t change a thing, just makes me spit.

    Some may call me crazy, some may call me the fool,
    I just smile at all the wonder, sittin’ on this stump for a stool.
    I consider it a privilege, a joy, to be workin’ this small branch,
    It’s the Good Lord’s alone; He holds the deed, to this here ranch.
    There’s no start, no finish, just, “do this, remember”, is what He said,
    So for His gift of life, I’ll gladly partake, I’ll work the land, I’ll taste the bread.

    Time passes slowly, and tends to get lonely, sittin’ solo on the bench,
    But there’s a town nearby, with plenty a folk, you can tell by the stench.
    Don’t seem to have a-yearnin’, to ride in, and spend much time there,
    Cept; for Sunday mornin’ church, supplies, or occasional social affair.
    The air is fresh, the pasture’s green, you can’t deny the magic of this land,
    Each blade of grass, leaf of the tree, created with purpose, from His hand.

    Some may call me crazy, some may call me the fool,
    I just smile at all the wonder, sittin’ on this stump for a stool.
    I consider it a privilege, a joy, to be workin’ this small branch,
    It’s the Good Lord’s alone; He holds the deed to this here ranch.
    There’s no start, no finish, just, “do this, remember”, is what He said,
    So for His gift of life, I’ll gladly partake, I’ll work the land, I’ll taste the bread.

    Winter will return and the cold winds will blow,
    Even then there will be beauty, unspeakable in the snow.
    The season will pass, like all seasons do,
    It’s a prayer, its God’s Grace, that’ll get you through.
    So join me; enjoy the day, cherish the pleasure, or lament the loss,
    If its healing or forgiveness you need, He put it there, up on the cross.
    He’s done His part, now it’s time to do mine,
    There’s times I truly believe, he’s givin’ me a sign.
    With a debt of gratitude, far too steep to pay,
    I’ll gladly work in awe, here, on His Ranch today.

    Some may call me crazy, some may call me the fool,
    I just smile at all the wonder, sittin’ on this stump for a stool.
    I consider it a privilege, a joy, to be workin’ this small branch,
    It’s the Good Lord’s alone; He holds the deed to this here ranch.
    There’s no start, no finish, just, “do this, remember”, is what He said,
    So for His gift of life, I’ll gladly partake, I’ll work the land, I’ll taste the bread.

  15. This work is a joy and seems to show no indication of fatigue. Well expressed, David. The refrain is quite effective, too.

  16. Working at Being Nice

    “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” ~Bill Gates

    So, here’s a bit of good advice:
    it’s always nice to be…well, nice
    ‘cause payback’s a bite
    so just be polite.
    If the mood
    to be rude

    to geeks and nerds and dorks is what
    you think is cool, you’re so wrong, but
    remember these words:
    you could work for nerds.
    is drivel.


  17. Angels In Disguise

    Their job requires so much more than just
    The bare-essential, back-to-basic skills;
    To really earn complete respect and trust,
    They go beyond just training and a will:


    Are just a few things they must learn and strive
    To master to succeed; a lot of work,
    But willing to learn all of this and more,
    My dream might just be realized when I’m grown.

    © Copyright Erin Kay Hope – 2013

    When I used to go the doctor’s all the time with my brother, we bought mugs for his nurses that said “Nurses are angels in disguise”. That seemed appropriate for this prompt – also being what I want to become after I graduate. 🙂

  18. This is one I’d written previously for an assignment on mining. My mind went to the miner’s wife and what it was/is like from her perspective.

    Miner’s Wife

    She watches from the kitchen
    door ajar and robe clutched tight
    his kiss still warm on her lips.
    She watches till his fading
    form recedes into the dark
    headlamp dimming in the mist.

    Up ahead muted voices
    drift back, football highlights mulled
    from last night’s high school victory.
    “Ho, wait up,” he calls to them,
    they pause, then they are three.

    Three light-beams along the road
    three lunch buckets at their sides
    and in three houses, three wives
    whisper a prayer, “Keep him safe.”

  19. Working Hands

    Arthritis twists her fingers, knots her joints,
    ‘til she can hardly lace and tie her shoes,
    but she will park her cane and grip a hoe
    and weeding in the garden, she will go.

    When we come from the fields, exhausted, sore,
    we freshen up and go to milk the cows,
    then dinner must be made and dishes done
    and any homework finished—or begun.

    Despite the burning pain, her hands perform
    the tasks of stacking bales or kneading dough;
    they soothe tired babies, keep the household neat,
    take comfort in dish-washing water’s heat.

    A little pain’s a smallish price to pay
    for all the pleasure working hands can give.
    She peels a peach, sends me to piano—
    my fingers find what my mind does not know.

    She takes my hand and on its top she lays
    her own, as if to show me where I’m bound.
    She squeezes to make sure I understand
    that I come from a lineage of worn hands.

  20. Mind Over Matters

    A simple
    habit of mind makes
    all labor
    find the fun in what you do;
    imagine it heals.

    Imagine it matters
    to someone.
    Imagine the someone.

  21. COP

    A cop’s main job is keeping peace:
    he must police
    the neighborhood
    for its own good.

    He often gets so little thanks,
    but in the ranks
    they know the work
    he does not shirk

    and that includes striving double
    to halt trouble.
    But he’s in it
    in a minute.

    copyright 2013, William Preston

  22. Packing Peaches

    Promoted to ring-packer, I sat at the end of the row
    Of ordinary sorters and picked the prettiest peaches to go
    On the top of each bushel basket that the city wives would buy
    To can like mom & Grandma did, ( the old ways were hard to die).

    The fruit house sat by the railway station, the peaches went by train
    To markets in the cities, all of our sunshine and our rain
    But most of all our limestone soil produced the nicest crop
    Of fruits and vegetables, in our state we were the top

    The fruits were sorted, one by one, the berries were the first
    To be loaded in the fruit-house, where we sorted out the worst
    That went straight to the canneries in a larger town
    But our county had the name for quality, it shone

    And we packers knew and respected this bit of fame
    From teen-ager to grandmother we would not bring shame;
    Each bushel basket that we filled carried that guarantee
    The freshest fruit in the USA came from county Honesty!

  23. Grooming

    First, fill a basin and pitcher high,
    set pet shampoo and towel nearby,
    pick up the cat, take paws in hand,
    and gently lower into warm pan.

    Now, wait ‘til yowl and hiss are done,
    a moment only—this is fun—
    release the hind paws (not the fore!)
    and taking pitcher, gently pour

    warm water over back and neck.
    The shampoo’s lid is on—oh, heck!
    Now don’t get rattled, use your teeth.
    You have a wildcat underneath

    who’s watching every move you make.
    Use yum-yum voice, for heaven’s sake!
    Rub shampoo into sodden fur
    and listen for that kitty’s purr.

    A quickie rinse and then again,
    for cats don’t like this grooming plan.
    In his green eyes, you see your skin
    in ribbons, pay-back for this sin,

    so wrap that towel around him right—
    claws inside flailing, hold him tight,
    and pet him ‘til he simmers down.
    Release! He shakes, then rolls around

    the floor, the garden’s dirt—your bed.
    He won’t come. Clean the house instead.
    Who knew that he could go berserk
    and make bath time three times the work?

    You’re pasted with wet fur, and that
    is why you bathe—without the cat.


    I wrote dim words
    about bright nerds.
    They spoke:
    “This bloke
    must work with birds.”

    copyright 2013, William Preston

    NB: This little bit sprang from two earlier posts, Iris’s and RJ’s, plus a nod to Ogden Nash and his “limick” form. My abbreviated limerick isn’t the same form as Nash’s creation, but I think this idea is.

  25. Grandfather and Work

    When anyone mentions celebrating the working man, I think of Grandfather. Six of us grandchildren spent a summer with him and grandmother; none us over the age of 9. He worked as a carpenter at
    a sawmill the other side of town and rode the city bus home each day to a place called Boylston, near Montgomery, Alabama. He worked with his hands, five days a week, until he died. The other two days he spent fishing on the Alabama River when Grandmother would allow it. He represented to us kids what every important person did: work. There must have been something sacred about work as we held him
    with such respect. He wore a inoperable hearing aid, so I guess noisy kids never really bothered him. We children would run the half-mile down the red clay, country road to meet him at the bus stop each
    afternoon. It was a chalky, dusty road, still filled with acres of cotton fields back then. I don’t know what grandfather thought of us meeting him each afternoon, but it was sort of the highlight of our day. It was our
    adventure! Little hands, clinging to him from both sides; front and behind, he must have appeared as a sort of Pied Piper as we made our way, giggling and circling about him; the older ones always jostling over
    who would carry his toolbox. We adored him in those suspendered overalls he wore; perhaps even worshiped him, as we skipped our way home.

  26. Housewife/Mom/Student
    Resume (Prose poem)

    Well, reading through your job announcement: Yes, I have prior experience. I can keep your puppies well-fed, watered, and freshly bathed/groomed. Also, their living/play areas clean and sanitary, so that they may play and rest. Additionally, I will sing them a song and put them sweetly to bed, each night. All of this, I will do, 24/7, until it is time for them to move out into the real world. Salary? Umm… I couldn’t begin to know where to start negotiations…

      • :D!! My husband used to say: “Honey, some day I am going to pay you for all that you do around here…” until he read an article that someone wrote that had an itemization of what it would actually cost if he had to hire someone to do all of the little tasks of a household… I think it was well over $100,000…We both laughed!! :D!!

  27. Loyalty

    Sam never missed work,
    was not late.
    Short lunch break,
    and back at his desk. He had
    been there forty years.
    Firm merged–takeover.
    New owners
    in the dark
    about how the business ran.
    They downsized, cut Sam.

  28. My Laborer

    Of grass
    stains and grease.
    Of aged sweat stains
    between our sheets. Of
    worn torn jeans and steely-
    eyed evening greetings through
    summer’s heat and winter’s sleet.
    Of midnight tremors and fearless fatigue.
    Of sunrise thermos squeals and creaking
    knees as you sneak into the bleak of
    morning fog seeped in pain,
    seeped in the freedom
    of duty, I pray you

  29. For a friend’s stepfather who recently responded to the alarm and didn’t make it home.


    Black soot,
    billowing smoke
    lunge toward him.

    Heat stress,
    are partial enemies.

    Structure weakens.
    Walls cave in, flames won’t retreat
    and neither will he.

    Beams ablaze
    crumble downward.
    Life comingles with ashes.

    Every step in danger.
    Every step his duty.
    Every inch the hero.

    © Susan Schoeffield

    • This is a superb tribute, in my opinion, and that line, “Life comingles with ashes,” is stunning.


    You were due August 25th but as I sat
    through “Chorus Line” grateful
    for the air-conditioned theatre
    during one of hottest summers
    on record (1981)…
    I knew you’d be late

    Sure enough, a Virgo even then
    you were timing things to be
    exacting and made your entrance
    truly on Labour Day that year
    as it fell on September 1st
    and so did you…

    I became certain that labour
    had nothing to do with the workforce
    and everything to do with
    delivering a child and nothing
    since then has dissuaded me
    from that notion.

  31. Pingback: It Takes Work | echoes from the silence


      some days
      are more challenging
      than others

      troubles greet me
      at the door, before I’ve had
      my coffee

      I don’t work
      with patients, but sometimes
      I lose mine

      nose to the
      grindstone, finishing my
      to do list

      I don’t like
      being crabby, sometimes
      it takes work

      P. Wanken

  32. Work

    Work alone’s no fun
    Always to be done
    Mix it with passion and bent
    Will fill the chasm
    You won’t know where the time went

  33. Pingback: A Question of Work | The Chalk Hills Journal

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