tuesday, december 23

WOODEN MATCHES / STRIKE ON BOX / 250 COUNT

half a loose handful shuffles around inside
as i tuck a glove under one arm and
open the box with a bare hand
the wind has come up steady but it only takes
three matches, shifting from a wad of newspaper
to the side of a plastic bag
before things catch

(jack london wouldn't approve
this kind of thing would never do
the dog would run off and i'd go out in
a haze of encroaching numbness and
hallucinatory warmth)

by the time i walk away there's
plastic smoke staining the nearby drifts
a week's worth of trash blackens and
sinks into the snow

i've been gone for what feels like a long time now
but this is the life my parents still live
miles from that bright center of the universe
not as far as you can go, but
further than most people want to get
surrounded by row crops and petrochemicals
the landscape still a homicide
the crime still in progress a century on,
these counties bleeding population like some long-form
apology for all their artefacts of theft and
misdirected expectations

but just the same when the sun goes down
it goes down across the fields
the frozen ridges of the cornstalk wreckage
the gravel roads and blacktops,
windbreaks, fencelines
and the yardlights buzzing into life
and the gathering dark
and there's something to be said for all
of this

the garden in the summertime,
pivot irrigation leaching the well dry
pulling nails out of timber gone gray with age
still smelling like horses dead for fifty years and
pigs rooting at the foundation through decades of neglect
the woodshop in the evening, sawdust and powertools
tires on main street and car doors open
halfway in some parking lot, beercans hidden under the seat
green schoolbus vinyl and the grimy black floor
bad country radio, bad weather, the good life
all the things i never could explain

this wintertime, the roads busted open just before
we came by a neighbor with a tractor, a kid
i went to highschool with
he's got a wife now, maybe children,
and for all i know he's happy
i want to think so.