Travis County Silo
Hide the sledge hammers,
hide the cassette deck,
a Cadillac ornament
used to pry it out,
railroad timbers, bulk pipes,
hide crawler chains resting from
their joyous pull, hide pea
gravel piles, car rims, a full-length
mirror, burn pallets, flannel
shirt torn for a tourniquet,
one half of a lavender dollhouse,
cigarettes shoved under its floors
in haste, tiny yellow bow in a tiny
stove, its door missing. Leave
the silo, leave its door open,
leave tractors tracking
what comes, leave their promise.
Children will swarm like wasps,
their smooth arms filled with firewood,
as if in this strange, sulfuric wilderness,
everything that stays will grow strong.
After the crosscut saw
gashes my thumb, our boss,
Maurice, piles us into his slagging
black Ford to run scalded
down labyrinthine logger roads.
While I bawl at my minor wound
he whispers timber myths—
the fire princess who leapt for love
off Mt. Mitchell, rivers bent
by web-footed fish men,
some such mystery.
Telling stories as currency, Maurice,
who swears he’s part Cherokee,
his Malamute, Kima, tribal word
for mine, allegedly, who himself leaps
from the saddle truck bed
to avoid questioning.
At a thousand feet, any claim
made by the rescuer
seems above board, and considering
we embellish most of our history,
I’ll recount bucking Blue Ridge hickory
for an unforgiving soul,
the roughest in his roughneck crew,
men from all manner
of vengeful hill and hiding place.
It was my pick-up,
whiskey under the driver’s seat,
buzzed by eleven, meaning
a felling ax scalped my hand
wrist to knuckle, and I felt merely
the cool Carolina air on what was
exposed, its blade
stopping in the v of flesh.
I’ll give myself a dog named Wolf,
because he’s half wolf,
and say we descended the mountain
on foot, my skin peeled back
like butcher paper, brilliant geology
of bone and tendon, fist clinched
to get the blood sparkling,
like a manic mountain jeweler.
Got blindsided by an ex-con named Jake.
I’d refused him whiskey, fed Wolf
two of his fingers
I took with a crosscut saw.
That’s what I’ll say.
Maurice, if you’re reading this,
I don’t know blood quantum laws
any more than Jake knew jail
or missing fingers.
You wrapped my bandage
tenderly, scolded your lumber lifers
for suggesting my skin
gave more to cowardice than blade.
They only meant to unearth
some courage from a boy
who couldn’t figure bandages.
Intervals of truth still tally some truth.
In light of these confessions,
at least let my secret whiskey stash
remain in the retelling.
I want to be hardened as poplar, a stoic
chokerman, toughest job in the trees.
Chris Mink earned a Ph.D. in English from Florida State University and an MA in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. His poems have appeared in Hobart, Storyscape, The Greensboro Review, Wraparound South, and many other journals. He currently teaches 8th Grade English Language Arts and high school creative writing at NYOS Charter School in Austin, TX.