On the Level

By | 1 November 2019

Underground

Suppose your Grandfather,
metis in Trois Rivieres,
when a man comes up
from Providence
saying: you can come down
there’s work in the velvet factory: food and pay.
Bring your boy. It’s better than the Jeffrey mine
This is easy
I’ll take you down on Wednesday
I’ll give you everything you need.

In the census of narrow laneways
Your grandfather gives his name: Telesphore
Which means bringing fulfillment
and bearing fruit. All untrue.
He says: At least in the mine you could come up for air
Each lung sapped black with the velvet mud
of the lower Pawtuxet. Which means
little falls, accident, lost man.
All of it true.

His boy carries him home.

Mineral Rights

I’ve got a birch trunk for a hip bone
thighs like willow,
one metatarsal pointed south.
You are low wheat, a sunlit rodeo
next to the Telluride mine.

And the next day dairymen
blocked the roads to Spain.
When I walked up Cadillac barefoot
the man watching the gate said:
I was a fisherman, but that’s done now.
All the big pines, down.
His name stitched like planets
each verb a consolation
and here, cruise ships in autumn
spring oleander
the deceit-heart of the banksia.
If I keep it honest, this picture includes
the ruin of the world. After the long haul
of sliced logs, the weight of white gold,
the uplift of the oldest sea.

And on the last day, we see
rock pools filled with
sheep bone, saltbush,
Penelope and all her maidens
shipwrecked in the red earth, a nest of bees.

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