By a dry swale across a meadow
of tussocks, a pastureland of bluegrass
and fescue—the Mental Hospital

For a week we’ve been vanishing
ghostly creatures in a bright pall of dust

there, wearing cheap snouts
to be able to breathe,
stuffing ears with foam cylinders

hoping to muffle a continuous
jackhammer hell
in a windowless 18 x 36 cooler with ceramic
block-wall echoes and a killing
floor of three-inch concrete
then tile, then ten more footlike
inches of concrete cured harder
every year of its 35 or so—
and everything has to go

So we like our short breaks

With sore hands, we wipe away
the pale mask of work

We move outside
and little clouds of dust move with us,

trailing to where we slump upright
in the breeze, the blue air
Today, from above, we hear
a noise, we look:

thirty feet high
along the ridge of the cafeteria
roof strides a bearded man, tall
and thin and wearing the state’s pajamas

He stops and waves
We wave too

:: Dan Howell, Lost Country (1993)

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