Jake Adam York
I thought we all began with air,
everything in debt to oxygen
or water, the air locked there.
But today the papers say iron:
this world’s first life
breathed iron in
and blew air out.
Then came all the rest.
Now my yard will never look the same,
the deep rust of clay
flashing through the scrub,
old ocean floor, ash of air.
It shines like the bank of native ochre
that’s piled across the road
to shoulder rails like favorite sons
and give to the grip of trailer-kids
who mine the bank
for a clod to open like an apple,
then charged with the shock of iron
run the tracks and play grenades.
When they eat I wonder
what they see,
what I saw
before my parents straightened me
with talk of kind:
the simple dirt, or fruit without tree?
Today, they scale the levee
as thunderheads swell,
and as I cross the road
and clamber to the gravel bed,
the taste rises, familiar as lipstick,
a ghost on my tongue.
The distance rumbles in.
We can smell the coming storm.
But I’ll stride the rails a minute longer,
then bend beside the kids,
fill my hands
and begin again,
Originally appeared in Texas Review
Return to Spring 2007 Table of Contents