- The Leap, and: The Boy and the Rafter, and: Monongahela, Allegheny Coal Field
Eighth grader,older cousin,clicks her cheekand kicksthe soft flank lightly;we jolt forwardfaster than breath.I'm crushed betweenher grip on the horn,hand on the reins,as the black animalfinds air, whirligigof mare, sky, groundpasses like integers readin quick succession.PVC balanceson the barrels wheremy cousin looks back,as we canter downhill;how should I knowI cause the thing I fearthe most? Legs rigid—.The sudden smellof morning I joinin falling throughthe hickory leaves,the miracle of landingon our backs unharmed.The taste of horsesweat blocks the sightof the double-wide filled [End Page 82] with aunts: Barbara and Joyceand Linda and Linda,their Slims, oblivious Iknow the gravity of my bodyin the gravity-bound day. [End Page 83]
THE BOY AND THE RAFTER
This was the summer after the winterthe coal stoves of our neighbors upwinddropped flocks of commas on the parable snow.Noon crickets slept. The wind abandonedAugust and our trailer—that's when voiceslulled me back, pressed my face to a split-glasswindow cranked wide to see who I heard,what had gathered in our new foundationstill cut mud-open. Birds lumbered throughdiscovering their places amongst themselves,clumps of rank and retinue, dear purpledraping their feathered congress. How suddenlysilent they were, bowing and sidling like menunused to looking at each other. What I thoughttook on the silver tinge of dream. I doubtedeven then what I knew I could never forget,and I have forgotten everything they said,their bulbous shifting and speckled necks,but a cacophony I recall of light openedto catch the truth, like amethystsspinning on a necklace of leaving what canno longer be, and never like they knew it. [End Page 84]
MONONGAHELA, ALLEGHENY COAL FIELD
The season turned them out on their heads.The kids flicked butts at the tipple and tracks,with Waylon on the radio, shirtsleeves cut free,and blew through quick as pick-ups slippingthe valves of some mountain trumpet, risingchord on chord like pines, like blasted fill,high lonesome sound of high school football fields,and higher still, shrinking in the belly of the air
over a city or Great Lake unknown to thesehorizons strung three times, tree to tree.Near the wasp-spangled tool shed, paperbloat of a late August harvest, someone regrettedeach and every year he held onto them like a stoneturning in his belly. He held the answer,heard the burden once lifted in the wind:they be gone for good, no chance they stay. [End Page 85]
Jacob Strautmann's poems have appeared in The Harlequin, Salamander Magazine, The Boston Globe, Agni Online, The Appalachian Journal, Solstice, Jam Tarts, and Quiddity (from which he won the Editor's Prize in Poetry). He is a contributing editor for Salamander Magazine. He holds an MA from Boston University, where he teaches creative writing and is the Managing Director of Boston Playwrights' Theatre.