Two Poems by John Estes
Two Days Before the Tornado Destroyed It
Afflicted with a passion to assist (flawed, in fact, by a genetic disposition to attract but not resist) a certain type of unfortunate— accursed with a heart, if you will, for the overly-chatty outcast, whom the time-conscious and emotional-black-hole-wearied instinctively avoid—
I ride with this guy to see the site of the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well: 109 feet deep, 32 across.
Black steel stairs spiral at right angles down a chiseled-out shaft the railroad inspired, though it never arrived to water a single horse or cattle car; the tourists obsess about the plummet down. On days like today without a moment alone some crave and struggle to contain a plummet into. It’s big, to be sure, but the bigger conundrum is how this was the best we could do.
On the way out we pass and pay our due respects to the Pallasite Meteorite, a stony-iron hunk from space, glaringly bereft of space, treasure-hunters found in a farmer’s field and now at rest under glass. Around that mottled chunk of ore as distant supercells somewhere build I vow fealty to my defects.
May 2, 2007
A Natural History of Nearing 40
It never quite happens, that long-promised—or so we comprehend the nag—sure departure of mistrust that ages ago settled in for the winter, wandered down to the milk gap each morning, hung around, got tapped with all the other heifers of disaffection just to come around the next day, and the next until years were no longer told in seasons. That these are imaginary cows, with imaginary birds singing in advance of an imaginary, threatening dawn seems only somewhat mitigated by the very real pasture they graze upon as a near-invisible drizzle slowly soaks them, by the failure of spiritual practice to deliver on its promised deliverance or an arising certainty that breeding, like most other attempts at increasing one’s capital, at fixing oneself to the earth, to the heavens, to the bottom line, like the herd itself, serves an unseen master, implacable in need, relentless in prosecution, against which no formulation can defend, above all the only one we’re given, head down.
John Estes directs the Creative Writing Program at Malone University in Canton, Ohio. He is the author of Kingdom Come (C&R Press, 2011) and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and Swerve (Poetry Society of America, 2009), which won a National Chapbook Fellowship.
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