Man’s Most Important Labor

“Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth
is the most important labor of man.”
+++++++++++++++++++++ — Daniel Webster

To which I thought
“Yes, this is likely so.”

until I went for coffee
watched the barista move

with such fluid grace, such swift
sure motion, such confidence

it reminded me of the fry cook
I used to watch from a counter stool

the efficient elegance with which he ruled his flattop
the singing sword of his metal spatula

not a single motion wasted as he molded
the hissing mound of hash browns into place

flipped pancakes without a passing thought
eased each egg such that never a yolk was broken

the way my uncle could work with wood
drive a nail with one sure blow

the roughnecks smoothly hoisting ringing iron
quickly clattering it into place around each thrusting pipe

pickers fleetly cascading unbruised fruit
into baskets with the somber deftness of piecework

the beauty of labor done fast and well and with attention
I will sit anywhere that I can quietly see such things

what’s been learned deeply, done swift and right
the motions of laboring generations

every unimportant ancestor
emerging from their bones

About the Poet:
Ryan Warren lives with his family by the sea in Northern California. His poetry has previously appeared in numerous journals including California Quarterly, Amaryllis, Wilderness House Literary Review, Firefly Magazine, Verse-Virtual, Ekphrastic and the anthology, Carry The Light. More on his published works can be found


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