Public Works

March 26, 2019
Thick sheets of ice warp to reveal a dark hole within
Ellenm1, ice formations, Barton Dam, Michigan / Flickr

Dismissed from some other duty
the drawbridge attendant questions
the stability of days. As in: how long
until what we’ve been holding on to
finally gives way. A paycheck comes
and the only thing we find puzzling
is its amount. Hold up, yells a stranger
and we breathe easier when we know
he’s talking to the bus. We’re all in this
together. The commute. The tailpipes
we press our tonsils to. Figuratively
we see ourselves in the frozen lake,
the one we drive by coming back
from lunch. Looking out pessimistically
a shoe polisher prepares to be replaced
and counts his years. Everybody has
an idea about real work: it is digging
down to and replacing the seepage
bed. It is dirty and always thankless.
New ideas come and go while we wonder
which of those they might permit.
A municipality complicates the matter
with a makeshift levy. Taxes that
which cannot take another hit.
A vendor on the street takes down
her sign. The roof we nail-gunned
together, collapses in. How marvelously
one explosive in a lunchbox can light up
a square. For the sake of national security
we’re asked to get some sleep. Daybreak
can only represent the way we rise
and shatter. We’ll all be getting up soon.
Like all of us, you are so much, right now
just snow. You scrape the ice
from the windshield, check the handle
of each door, and swear: this is not the way
I’ll be worn down.

Brandon Rushton’s poems appear in Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, Bennington Review, CutBank, Sonora Review, and Passages North among other journals. In 2016 he was the winner of both the Gulf Coast Prize and the Ninth Letter Award for Poetry. In 2017 he served as the Theodore Roethke Fellow at the Marshall Fredericks Museum. Born and raised in Michigan, he now lives and writes in Charleston, South Carolina, and teaches writing at the College of Charleston.