On the Road with Wallace and Wystan by Josh Warn

In my early 20s, I was an Ironworker, back in Southern Illinois, Local 392.  I worked deep in the ground to tie rebar into a latticework for foundations.  I worked 15 or 20 stories up, to connect beams and columns into a steel skeleton.  And in my mid-twenties, I became a lawyer, licensed by the Supreme Court of California to tie together the beams and columns of “the law.”

So, when I came across this essay by a fellow Ironworker on the website for the Poetry Foundation, and saw further that he traced the poems of lawyer Wallace Stevens, it was as if I had found a lost brother, someone separated from me by warring parents, but found again.

He says that pulling a poem from somewhere in his cortex brings a sense of structure to the chaos,  an Ironworker-like feeling of bringing shape to empty spaces.  I know exactly what he means, nearly 40 years later.  Those extraordinary early and mid 20s are part of the beams and columns that shape who I am today.