The Dead Guy and the Evangelist

A guy wearing a tie and a soaking shirt
was handing out religious pamphlets
today at the truckstop, asking everybody
have they been saved from eternal damnation by Christ
our personal lord and savior. I’d just picked up
four deads that were three days gone
from the heat down at Shafer Brothers Feedlot.
My mind was on air conditioning and fueling up
so I could get my load back to the plant.
He came over, wearing enough cologne
to keep a dog away from a dead wagon,
and asked me if I knew where I’m going
when I die. A rancher who called me once
to carry off a palomino asked
how I liked the resurrection business,
and so I told that preacher I wasn’t sure,
but I work in resurrection too,
and had to get a load to Wauneta before it spoiled.

Who is he to ask me where I’m going
when I die? Me and that preacher and a millionaire
will end up drained and pickled and dressed
in suits, and that’s all any of us knows.
What’s left is just a carcass the undertaker
powders and buries instead of hauling off
to the rendering plant. We both keep
the dead from piling up. People would know
if somebody wasn’t there to keep those cows
from laying around getting ripe when they died.

I don’t need to imagine more of a heaven
than the light inside of Five Springs Canyon
afternoons when cutthroats pop the surface
and bite on anything you throw in the water,
or watching pheasants break from a field of cornstalks,
or even having Rhonda call me Darlin’
when I stop for lunch at the Conestoga Grill.
I won’t say I’m ready. But if I got run over
by a sugar beet truck tonight, I could die knowing
I did some good in life, that I was willing
to do a job not many people would do.

:: William Notter, Holding Everything Down (2009)


Midnight Ramble

This is the middle class, lower. The tree in the yard.
Bushes in front of the house. Flowers in the yard. Lawn
mowers growling. Dogs barking. Lots of dogs. Every-
body has one, for safety, and they keep them locked up
in their yards where they bark and bark behind their
fences because no one ever takes them for a walk. Ice
cream men. Lawn chairs. And beer and beer bellies and
white paint on trim and brick and a hose at the side of
the house. Squares, everything squares. Sidewalks and
lawns and porches and houses and brains. TV sets. Gar-
age sales and telephone poles. Kids sell kool-aid in sum-
mer, shovel snow in winter. Till they’re old enough to
smoke and drink and raise hell. They get a couple years
of that, then it’s factory time. Always one lawn mower
going. Because everyone on this street works in a fac-
tory and they’re all on different shifts. Maybe they
communicate through their lawns, waking me here in
the dark, damp basement. The young guys in the fac-
tory say they’re not going to work there the rest of
their lives. Just ‘temporary.’ The old guys laugh at that.
They say Temporary my ass.

:: Jim Daniels, Punching Out


January: Unloading Feed

Godamitey it’s cold
that dam wind don’t help a thing
I think I may be loosing
another finger and two toes
and that ain’t the coldest part

I hear spit freezes
about fifty below
so hold it in I don’t want no holes
in the side of the barn
when it’s that cold
pee stacks up
my daddy sed oncet
he’s in Montana with a woman
had to chop her loost
from the ground

hurry up and get that other sack
out the truck
let’s go in and warm up
before the rest of us freezes
and falls off

:: David Lee, Day’s Work (1990)


Advice for Women on the Graveyard Shift

Click here to read Karen Weyant's poem online at Broadsided.