Adam Houle is the author of Stray (Lithic Press 2017), a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Shenandoah, Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. He lives in South Carolina, where he is an assistant professor of English at Francis Marion University.
Seeing Men on a Neighbor's Lawn
That the men are waiting
for shingles in the shade
of a Bradford pear
tree is not clear
until a loaded truck rumbles up
and the sullen loafers
replaced by elf-like selves
tossing stacks of flashing
then aloft on metal ladders
mouths like pouches filled with nails.
In the sure heat of a dying farm
staked with dappling shade trees
a man strains at an adequate hole
and lines the grave with river stone.
Mottled cows watch from the mud tank
their bedding-wrapped heeler laid down.
The man tamps the dirt back in place.
To stymie the coyotes he piles a cairn—
a necessity and not a nod to memory.
Nothing reflects in the cows' wet eyes.
The dog had a job, and the job is done.
The man's too. The shovel he cradles home.
The First Night of Spring in the Gunflint Range
So damn damp, the spitting sleet
that pelts then glazes all the roads.
Take this frozen pond of a parking lot,
the gas pumps an aviary of grounded
birds with long necks, beaks ice-slick,
sleek as the glossy magazine bodies
racked inside the empty, well-lit station.
He mops the day's boot grime, treads
kicked of slush and road salt, floors
buffed until they flush a dancehall
shine. Admires his work and grows bored,
thumbs the well-thumbed pages
looking for someone to look back. Looking
for some tune in the endless fluorescent hum.
Third shift, a study in discord that turns
more lonesome in each blast of wind
hauling its deep freeze across the foothills.
Temperatures drop and keep dropping.
The lone trucker hunkered up an hour
ago. His sleeper's cab a nest of sleeping
bags, Guns 'n' Roses, porno. Someone,
the kid thinks, should slash the truck's tires
before morning, or he'll be left nothing
but the snow-chains' hard bite in fresh snow.