Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Road Salvage

Jim made me think what it would mean to think
as a family. Our hands
scored with splinters, dismantling cabins
for the company.
He stashed a pile away from the fire we worked
slow loading.
Planning to haul it home at the end of the day,
to make a fort
for his on-the-way grandkid. The wood
was still good, just
blocking condo development. He could
sand the lead off it.
Run water through that building, give
his girl a working sink.
After finding his pile, our bosses
made Jim carry slats
to the garbage. That was stealing technically,
the old nails and paint
a liability. He came back, raided
the trash at two
in the morning. Called that impulse bodily.
To resist systems
that hinder providing for a family.
A husband’s instinct,
for example, to swerve for the white end
of a buck hooked
around guard rails. Taking his knife out,
he asked me to brace
its neck—still hot—while he hacked into the
head. Points breaking off
with roots and a square of skin. He explained
his wife liked antlers
as weight for the paper on mornings when
it was warm enough
to open a window. He let them whiten
in the truck-bed,
forgetting a boss would see, and when one did
Jim covered for me.
Said he’d threatened me not to repeat,
that I’d sat angrily
while he dismembered the body. I didn’t
know until coming
back. After they suspended him I said,
on the phone, it’s like
when farmers slaughter and bury pigs
in Grapes of Wrath. To value
profit and insurance policies over
actual impact.
Jim laughed. I’m not starving. He said
if they let him on
again he’d fire me so I could read—find
a reference that
didn’t cast him as some dust bowl feeding
his family from the trash.  


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