As I watch them work and work alongside
Dark veined muscles, sinews and bright smiles
These men
My friends, my heroes, men’s men
That dare to turn dust soot and grime
into a thing of pride, into a badge of honour
monkey wrenches and spanners into a mark of valour
poverty and servitude into a form of glamour
sunburned scarred skin and calloused hands
proudly borne as their own form of armour

These men are my fathers,
These men are my heroes,
These men are my comrades in a struggle-
that only we know
These men are my teachers
They’ve Taught me to shun the shallow pleasure
of making a quick buck,
for the deep satisfaction of an honest days work
Trust patience and perseverance in place of dumb luck
Try time tested ways when the shortcuts are stuck

And they make music too,
these men, my mentors
clash of sheet metal
tap of hammer at chisel
songs of casual banter
chorused by coarse laughter
then a deep silence after
for though they sometimes joke-
they never speak out of turn.
not unless they have to

Merely casual workers?
no-more like car doctors
with black tape band-aids
sutures of welding iron
and until he comes, your car-
looks forlornly on
then he places his hand on her boot
as gently as he would-
with any lady, looks at you,
with a smile that says
“soon she’ll be good as new”

Next he opens her bonnet,
creases his brow in wonder
takes a bed and goes under
reappears soon tells you the trouble is spotted,
takes a stubby pen and pad from his pocket
makes a list of this or that doodad, part and sprocket
(plus, of course a healthy chunk of his own profit!)

He goes under her again
finally, he says your vehicles okay
“and if she’s any more trouble, come back again”
when you drive away,
leave him in the smoke and dust you stir in your wake
It is not for you the satisfied smile on his face
It is that of a man who’s finally found his place
his role though small, is his vocation, his call
and he gives it his all, with no second thought

This man is my father,
This man is my hero,
This man is my mentor,
comrade together in a struggle
that only we know.

© kevin gachuma