blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




Every day on break
we read the same tired story, drought
and its endless grip on the land.
Spindly-legged cows stagger
across the newspaper’s front page, hides
pulled tight over ribs.
Keith spends all day packing engine parts
I pull from shelves, our voices
echoing to one another
in the gray warehouse. He says, when it rains
his bad hand tenses up, bone seizing bone,
like a tough guy giving it a squeeze. At night
he’s a bouncer at Desperadoes
and he tells again the time he swung at the junkie
who bent and gave him his skull, pushing
Keith’s knuckles back to his wrist. In August
his girlfriend will go into labor
with their child, but for now it’s just heat so thick
we take breaks every hour,
drink Gatorade from the company cooler,
and stare down at the newspaper, its cows
swarming the empty trough.
Yesterday the heat squeezed a girl to death
as she waited in the car for her mother,
and now everyone wants to know the difference
between murder and carelessness, everyone
looks up when they step outside, searching
for what the sky withholds. I keep waiting
for the dark clouds to knit together
as the darkness in Keith’s hand contracts inward,
spilling whatever box he’s holding, bringing his good hand
to the bad, one half of the self
trying to soothe the other, and he’s waiting
for the moment of birth, when his girlfriend
clenches that same wrecked paw
and pushes into life
their daughter, already screaming for something
no one in the world can give her. 

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