Paper Mill Town

So we can have our fine and cherished texts
(those rocket-launched epiphanies emerge
when we scratch temples, eyes hazy in thought),

they went to work—noses upturned in that
nearly shriveled and rotted pulpy stench
tossed sideways into air like chimney smoke

on gray days with no contrast to offer,
every day the same, unyielding; they went to work,
lonely machinists gripped rusty lunch pails

and counted hours, and counted hours,
while the boys—pimply, cactus-stubble shaved—
pushed mops and daydreamed backseat adventures

with girls who’d never acknowledge them,
and counted hours, and counted hours,
while clippings weighted tile floors like snowstorms

piled high as our shelves flaunting those book spines
on a slight tilt—dominoes that won’t drop.
And we lose ourselves in the words, those words,

can’t speak the story inside the story,
of how they made thought, and counted hours,
and counted hours—so we can think it.

:: Mindi Kirchner, Song of the Rest of Us (2009)

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