After parking my car in the East Lot, I head past the
guard post, past the security cameras, past the sign list-
ing the number of days since the last work-loss accident,
stuck at 29 for weeks. Then into the locker room, with
its large round sinks, and the hand cleaner that looks and
feels like sawdust, and the old battered lockers, and the
first whiff of the dark smell of grease.

The plant has its own hospital, its own store, its own
railroad, its own streets, a main cafeteria and five satel-
lites. I got lost the first few times just trying to find my
way out at shift change. Once I ended up at the wrong
doors, the ones that go from noise and grit and darkness
to clean, bright, quiet offices where people dress nice
and talk to each other in normal voices. Heads turned.
I turned, back into the black noise. Lost.

:: Jim Daniels, Punching Out


Scar Tissue

Forty-ninth and Chester, cheap light-blue fluorescent lights,
dusty ceiling fans swimming up more dust, cracked flood-
worn floor, musty mop top in the washboard sink, Lou
working graveyard shift for my father's father, then my father.
Let me show you, as Lou did, the long skinny corridor behind
the dryers, the thick rusty-looking gas pipes that run the floor
every three feet. Give me your hand and let me show you how
easy it is to trip, to burn your arms and hands on the pipes
in front of us. Now, lie down like I am, next to me, look over
me at how Lou's inside one like a mechanic, half-in, half-out:
boot, sock, shin, pant, how he seems to ignore us. . . Do you see
the twin scars on his shin,dark pink rings inches apart, shiny
and smooth skin held in place, no nerves glowing where hair
refuses to come back? Take my hand. I want you to circle the
numb wounds, I need you to feel the nothing inside too.

:: Alexander Long, Light Here, Light There (2009)



In this visitation your silent h's
soften the palate to mother-of-pearl. You are
as quiet as my grandfather. As fate

would have it, you're Portuguese and mutter
the Latin mass in your sleep, through your nose. As you would
your twenty acres of alfalfa after the first fall rain

you smell the ocean or its headless
abundance stranded, not-quite-dead. The sweet marisque blows

miles inland at night with the fog, over Pacheco Pass
to the hot valley, the brackish irrigation canals. Smells come easier

than sounds--the kelp bladders pop
under your Red Wings, the sea lions bark
their hauled-out positions. It's once again

a minus tide in a month with an r. You crowbar
off a red nine-incher and plop it into a galvanized bucket
of salt water. A single foot to be pounded

to astonished edibility, the green guts going
to the farm cats, the shell to grow a garden

of hens-and-chickens, nailed to the dream
of a loquat tree.

:: B. Long, in Alaska Quarterly Review
(V 10, No 3 & 4, Spring/Summer 1992)