By BURLIN BARR
Table of Contents:
- Repairing Holes in Concrete Walls
- Eruptive debris of very small size
- Wolf Tree
Repairing Holes in Concrete Walls
The furnace always was
too hot, having been
converted from one mode of operation
to something else entirely;
its source of power mysterious, improvisatory;
changing: it looked like a tree
even and one guy said “hell…
I think this once burned
wood;” then coal, then oil,
gas and the walls were coming apart
from all of that erratic, differently-sourced heat.
After the man left (the one with
plaster and epoxy), well
that was quite a fight: enough
to break very quickly very old
bonds; that old tree-thing still
barely alive and smoldering: a
scene from a horror movie, or a dream, or a common day;
casting its spell of spew
and hatred like fire emerging
from any source imaginable and touching
us every place we live and love
Eruptive debris of very small size
It’s impossible that any machine stamped
this out: an enormous nail. What
could it have possibly been made
for; who made it? In deep space
it would have actual gravity: an object
of enormity beyond comprehension.
Or maybe it was a normal nail,
and I had gotten smaller.
Electricity here makes
the fans run in reverse.
It’s like that. And now this
electricity has such insubstantiality
(can electricity be substantial?
can it contribute to our divergent masses?)
that it provides no current
to counteract or speed or slow
the path even of a snail.
Now the fan no longer runs.
Even backwards. Nothing is even.
The water pressure in the pipes isn’t.
The water isn’t.
There are no active volcanos in the area.
But this wouldn’t be a bad place to put one.
Mesquites bear quiet finery; most
people I knew never much cared
for that or even took notice
of the furry explosions adorning branch ends
in among dark difficult needles;
“perfect day” they said, to find old flint
arrowheads or a chunk of possible
meteor rock in a field somewhere otherwise overstrewn
with what was left from the previous years’ dryness:
coyote haunch bones in a little muddy water
hole we called “the bathtub;” along too
with finer and coarser ones of birds and the more
vulnerable calves and then also hay not yet entirely
rotted; important to have the names:
the bathtub; the wolf tree; Bev’s field.
To a little kid squinting in the switch
grass they may as well have been real places, big
even: sears tower, love field, trafalgar
square, dripping springs; but those mesquites:
most people thought them a variety
of trash; except Otis; he kept his right in front
of the house even, as if it was something anybody
might want there. As if to say, “look at this.”
But mostly people got rid of them.
Up here in the East people pull up golden
rod like it’s some kind of devil, but I like it well enough
and the bees like it more than I do,
and the last time one tried
to get at me was when I got out of the green
beetle and, regarding the fur and tissue and bone,
stepped right into something and they
came right at me, and my intent being distracted, I ran
back to the beetle with maybe a whiff of rot
on me as well as the eyes I thought I had
seen; the road curved there and it was pretty
narrow; a curve that ended in more than a few
people like Shannon, Wendel, or Ronnie Griffith who drowned
at 3:30 on a Tuesday just outside
of his El Camino; in the smallest ditch you can imagine.
Think of that. Not really even a ditch.
More like a depression.
It doesn’t take much.
Just a week earlier he’d stuck his head out of
the window and flicked a
half-inch burning pall mall butt end
into the dry straw at our feet and enthusiastically opined
“swaller your ass back there”
as he floored it and we just dealt with it.
But, like I was saying, I was getting back
into the green beetle a good dozen years before
and looked forward and did so for a long time;
and held my breath, too, counting bodies that I never look at;
when I came back to that spot I always looked
forward and away with intention.
You must understand, I wanted no possibility of distortion.
The place was a sort of fulcrum; bearing pressure and devastation.
Look at that. Three i-o-n’s in a row
words like carcasses strung up:
along the curvature of the elegant mesquite spine.
There their weight sustained by wire.
I don’t know who they were: people ranching,
hauling maize, with guns, or my huge beautiful uncle,
who could turn his face pink and gave me nickels;
but the wolf tree was there and there was a place where
trophies hung: entire
bodies slung there in semi permanence
turning into everything
imaginable between a fresh body and shit and a variety
of fear and hatefulness; coiling;
Other than that it’s an unnatural stopping
point for any car—the beatle or that next one which was wrapped
around a different tree.
There was a long hill, only one around
that offered significant acceleration
and then gliding ease at the bottom;
small crosses there on the outer side
of the road, of course, for the car
deaths and the inner side was the wolf tree.
This curve was never a rational space.
There is a radius that can’t be calculated
from a center where people lived
And I regret that I have stopped missing them.
She (the one I travelled with and have not
seen for a very long time) and I mindlessly navigated
the middle of those on every trip we took together.
That one time I presumably had begun to drowse
or maybe I’d just closed my eyes, counting,
like kids do to get past something. One, two, three . . .
Listening and dreaming are two ways of bending;
but already then and many times hence she brought me back
with the gentlest agitation and said
We are almost there.
Burlin Barr writes poems, stories, and essays. His work was included in Best American Poetry 1994.