- Corduroy Road
Making time on I-90 with a box of photos in the seat beside me, I remember one:
sun-spotted and fading, a dull sheen spreading across the surface
as if a piece of the sun still lingered in the frame— my great-grandfather Red, axe in one hand,
the other arm raised to the sky, standing atop a massive stump, old hemlock or pine.
I know the spot where the picture was taken, just beyond the old cabin and salt lick
where we’d sit on summer days when the bugs weren’t too bad and he’d tell me of the corduroy road:
cut trees laid parallel to each other, perpendicular to the wheels, and I would imagine,
as his voice rasped on, what it would feel like to drive a heavy load
over logs cut just well enough to work, over each knot, rough cut limb, deep bark groove and burl,
the rattling of teeth, the bone-shaking rhythm, his every word working to keep me there with him
and I may have swerved, I may have nearly flown imagining shattered glass and axles bent,
but on the corduroy road, there was no mistaking what it took to get here and how the travel felt. [End Page 168]
Matthew Nienow’s latest chapbook is The End of the Folded Map. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as AGNI Online, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crazyhorse, New England Review, and Poetry Northwest. He received a 2011 Fellowship from the nea and has been awarded several scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, among other grants and fellowships. He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington, where he works as a boatbuilder.