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Blistered Palms, Aching Shoulders


Putting up a Fence

Around the New Propane Tank

        (An American Tanka)

The ground is so dense with clay,

shale, rocks, roots, that every heave

of my father’s wooden-handled pick-

axe arrives with a painful jolt,

blistered palms to aching shoulders


… but holes must be dug, posts leveled

and cemented before the stockade

fencing can be nailed up, all this labor

to hide what we don’t want to see

from the front porch, late afternoons,

drinks on the glass table, gazing past

the magnolia, across the mowed lawn


into the woods, so I keep driving the pick

into unforgiving soil, though it’s clear

we will still know the tank is there

after the fence is up, that nothing is hidden

enough in this life behind walls, will, work,


all the rabbit holes I’ve tunneled down

only to dig myself up to the same green yard,

shards of blinding sun, hand raised as shade

so I see his tattoo on my forearm, over there

the tractor shed we built two summers ago,

the ridge, as ever, visible through treetops,

branches cracking as some animal passes,


air warbling with the song of a Carolina Wren,

peepers at dusk, coyotes howling beyond

the stream, a hum out on the road, crunch

of tires, thunk and splash of rain-filled potholes,

headlights appearing from around the curve,

rolling past the hidden tank, coming to a stop

in the circle in front of the house



         —SL, 28 June 2024, New Paltz, NY

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