In my first life I studied the complexion of old roads
warted with pebbles and blistered with bottle caps.
I’d pry them up like an archaeologist
hunting teeth, read skid lines and tread marks,
and interpret the hieroglyphics of oil stains.
When the daring young men in their tarring
machines arrived in hardhats and steel toes,
laying down a fresh crust, tropically smoking
and blackly volcanic, the asphalt rakers
and the steam rollers with their gleaming drums
were better than any May Day parade.
And when the crew was gone who could resist
venturing barefoot onto that impeccable black,
to feel the soft heat under my bare soles
as they sank into the toffee tar
as gluey as my footprints betraying me
later across the kitchen floor.