Mill Worker

On the business end
of the green chain,
the logs come up reluctantly
out of the river,
slick as snot,
groaning and squealing
like the children
of some giant asswipe demons.

Turn your back on one
and it would like nothing better
than to roll over on you
and put you on
the no breakfast forever list.

I’m off bearing on the main saw.
The sawyer’s name is Jack.
He is in his twenties, skinny,
blond, shirt off, chest and back
covered with sweat and sticky sawdust.

Rhythm.
It’s all about rhythm.
Set. Cut. Off bear. Repeat.
Not ten words between us the whole day.

The cutting list is taped
to the saw frame.
Jack crawls around
the oily monster
doing his setup,
making sure the log dogs are tight.

Then he hits the button
and the beast starts to eat and roar.

All of Creation seemed
to roll through the saw that day.

The shadows rolled around us
like we were the pivot point
of the universe,
everything gimbaled
and swinging easy
like it’s supposed to.

The smell of that lumber
will be in my nose the day
I leave this earth.

Jack was killed the next summer–
flipped his truck off a logging road
driving home shit-faced drunk.
Three days before they found him.

He never let me touch his saw, though.
Too dangerous, he said.
You are lucky to be off bearing for me, shit bird, he said.

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