The Poetic Hill


Geraldine Connolly is the author of several poetry collections, including “Food for the Winter,” “Province of Fire,” and “Hand of the Wind,” as well as a chapbook, “The Red Room.” She is the recipient of two NEA creative writing fellowships in poetry, a Maryland Arts Council fellowship, and the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, and Shenandoah, and has also been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and anthologized in “Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, Sweeping Beauty: Poems About Housework,” and “The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide.” The poem below is from her latest collection, “Aileron,” published earlier this year by Terrapin Books.


The Smell of Workmen

I love the smell of workmen,                      
cigarettes and soap,
a faint whiff of grease.

I love the way they hum
while they work,
lips pursed in concentration.

I love the sounds they make
the groans of effort,
gutturals of frustration.

I love their tool belts,
hung with shiny mysterious
implements that look like
silver-winged birds.

I love the way they interrupt
the familiar with
a tap of hammer,
roar of  the drill,
scrape of a putty knife.

The cocoons of their hair shine,
lit by flashlights in the attic
as they fiddle
with gauges and dials.

I love their stained hands
and slow sweet smiles,
their sturdy shoes
and broken fingernails.

The way they shed light
on my morning
as they restore things to order,
their work as bright
               as flashing knives.


Geraldine Connolly will give a luncheon reading at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St, NW, Sept. 27 at noon. The club will also feature poet and storyteller Terence Winch (“The Known Universe”) in conversation with novelist Alice McDermott, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. For information or to RSVP, go to or call 202-331-7282.

If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to (There is no remuneration.)