The sun’s round fist takes one mountain maple by the throat.
Breakfast steams hard in an iron pan, spitting pigfat.
Redstarts and thrushes tune warbly orchestras
among the fiddleheads. Chill of dawn. The cool junipers
suffer their arthritis, turning knucklier in low-bound fog.
My neighbor’s taken him a lantern out to check his chicken fence
for fox holes, walking that gangly shadow down the stubble
of a well-grazed lawn. Then in the distance, a tinwhistle,
the train. It was strange to us at first, who’s kin settled this blessed
muck as a tribe of Irish rejects, records to their names
they’d cross the Atlantic–a salt-slabbed grave without a bottom
–to erase. Then we settled here, and our days were permitted
to wax primordial. So a dawn-to-dusk routine
sprang up in our rudimentary furrows. Then came the city
planner with his tobacco wad, his cash wad and his deed.
Not long after, we got made aware of time, hooking trains
like the sun’s declension hooks the cows
by their shoe-tongue napes, marching them out to feed,
and lulling them again to the companionable shade
beyond a scudded clearing. Time rose from a turd
beside the railway where our kine waited to be packed
for slaughter out in Charlotte, one fly hatching,
cleaning legs and wings, then rising, then another,
and as the swarm filled our ears with predatory ticking,
we lost status–falling from the regency of cultural imperatives
to an amicable enslavement: Some town-wide
doctrine of promptness as alien to us as a separate
hemisphere. Time was an antarctic star rising through Orion.
Now so much is sour–the days packaged like bacon
in cellophane–but not all. I told my neighbor:
Not all. There’s still the statement of dynamite
to be made; proof even this hick excels at punctuation.
So now, the train yard’s absurd dins and silences,
the heft and thunder of iron meeting itself in the dark,
then nothing but the soft snore of cicadas. I’ve planted
enough year by year, only to reap nothing but a long
line of mayoral ink, so now the whirlwind’s seed is going to ground
in the heart of this industry. The station being empty,
I kill no one, or just the shell of me,
rough old corn cob that I am. But it’s a damn sight
I’ll take this clock with me, that’s pounded down our plans
to make a bolt or two in a caboose, or to cast
girders for a mineshaft. I choose this dark depth,
cold as it is, instead: Lighting the short fuse that
makes my name a curse to bless the land.