Monday, September 5, 2011
Magpie Tales: Fruits of our Labor
"...when the truck died, I knew I had arrived. Even the tires have found a home," the man finishes his tale.
His rutted cheeks crack wide as he works his teeth with a piece of straw that found its way from one of his denim pockets to his hand, though I never noticed. We lapse into silence, as men often do when talking, letting our eyes follow the wind across the great expanse of nothing that roams as far as the mountain.
Having done its job, he sets the straw free to tumble in the air then vanish into the rocks and dirt, just another shade of tan. Removing a red kerchief, he pads his forehead, removing the ring of sweat that had gathered beneath his silver hair.
"How did you know though?"doubt edges my question.
"Son, how do you ever know?"
The crunches beneath the hard soles of his boots retreat behind me, then clunk on the wood planks of the porch. A solid thunk of the door closing, leaves me alone, leaning on the cock-eyed bed of the old truck. Absently, my fingernails work beneath a few remnants of black paint still clinging to its rusted metal husk, freeing the flecks to fall silent.
Clouds bunch into caricatures on the blue canvas above, but promise no rain today. A small bird hops here and there, the only brown moving amid the rest. I watch him for a bit, until hinges creak, planks thunk, and ground crunches, louder until drawing up beside me.
His hands, creased from years of work, hold a small frame with the tenderness one would have holding a newborn. Extending it, I take it carefully, surveying the faces in the picture contained within its embrace. He is the only one I recognize, tall at the back of the group, looking somewhat off to the side at one of the others. They all stand in front of the meager house behind us, not far from where we stand now.
"When I came here, I had nothing but what fit in the back of that truck. I don't take much mind to what ifs cause they ain't nothing but smoke in your fingers, but what you hold right there is how I know."
Silence joins us again, as a friend missed in those brief moments. Even the breeze holds its breath as four generations of his family gather weight in my fingers. A lone black bird spins lazy circles between us and the sky.
This is a Magpie Tale.
On a side note, I had two poems published in Punk Soul Poet, a literary and arts magazine this month. You can see my poems, as well as those of the other poets selected for the September issue, here.
And happy Labor Day to all my stateside friends. Enjoy the fruits of your own labor.