Fall 2004, Volume 22.1
Ken Raines delivered household appliances, played in a bar band, and chauffeured the rich and famous before a brief janitorial gig with Robert Redford and some misspent years working Elvis-impersonator shows in Reno. Most recently he edited Creosote, a modest literary magazine. Now teaching at Eastern Arizona College, he would welcome endorsements from Ford, Soundcraft, Windex, Fender, Maytag, and/or Uni-Ball.
He squints and turns the beam around,
swapping it end for end. He runs
his eye along the length of the crown
and sees an overall design
emerge from the splintered wood.
Then, his fingers trace the grain,
lingering. He bows and says a word
before he applies the adze and plane
to smooth the roughest edges down.
The heat and labor raise great beads
of sweat that drop with little sounds
to the smoothed surface. He breathes
with even efforts. Wood and water
and even breath are precious goods
among these arid hills. And later,
beneath a desert moon, he'll read,
and thoughts will gather like the curls
of shavings heaped around his sandals.
A lone helix of razor wire lopes
along the top of a cyclone fence,
protecting the reservoir from the keen
thirst of things that live in the desert.
Fist-sized rivets bulge on a pipe
that angles from the water, climbs two-
thousand feet, and bends double
on the ridge—a dead sidewinder
slung across barbed-wire.
Its mouth makes the enormous sucking
sound of Los Angeles—a subterranean
hum broadcast through rock and fossil
remains, shivering the living bones.