I watched one tallying today. By the dock.
He was superb; managing three boats, five men,
with a charcoal stick against the white-washed stone.
Each of the labourers had a different pace,
doubtless intending to outwit him; he was good.
He saw, I guess, a line that no one drew,
a line for each man working. When each crossed
their line, he marked it, black on white, boldly,
dividing attention, without it slackening,
like a fisherman landing prey or guards on watch;
and at the fifth in every case, he cut
through the previous four, like one harvesting
with a scythe, in one movement which could only
be extended to mark uprights elsewhere
as fast and as dexterous as boys at harps.
Only now I think he was left-handed.
They wanted to cheat him. They didn't dare.
He took no part in further operation.
The counted sacks, crates and bottles were snatched
by other men, whom I assume owned them,
as a mouse or familiar takes what it can get.