A Great Collapse
Jake Lawson

Our barn showed us the holes
in beams, wormy chestnut--carpenter’s gold--
the hand shaved, rock edged
lumber that clustered Appalachia before the blight.

My cousins and I raced the tight-wire of trusses,
itching in hay, skywatching through rusted holes
in tin. Turquoise eggs freckled from nests
wedged between the roof and shelved planks.

White-washed boards elbowed out in the splitting
sun, letting light worm down to sift through dust--
not bright enough to shine through foggy mason jars,

a place for razor-straps, rusted sickles, broken
whetstones. Abandoned moth-eaten clothes
made luxurious beds for litters of puppies,
stalks of dead tobacco--twenty years
old--left for the red clay to inherit.  
One summer a storm ripped planks
from the barn's side, and I took the fallen lumber to build
a bridge over the marsh, where
our weight and age became too much,

the danger revealing itself. I gazed
at the window for the next storm
when lightning blasted the center beam,
illuminating every inch inside, like a photograph,
A flash of sharp threat, soft wood
chipping away to dust.

Until then I didn't notice the beams
taking the stoop of an age-old crop-picker,
the roof shifting inward like sand.
Too weak to hold heavy lofts and deep black corners,
a haven for snakes draping their dry skin.

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