Somewhere else outsiders dressed for croquet
speak in pastel while pretty horses stand saddled,
ready for the trail. Even in this county a bubbly
denim crowd orders leisure fun from a brochure.
In town where art collects a tourist camera uploads
romantic scrapbooks—evidence travelers arrived
in Jackson Hole breathing aspen and sage.
Here in the remote holler a neighbor’s pig pen
smells of hard scrabble Eastern highlands.
The National Geographic memory can’t travel
this far, for already morning work is a given—
small detail noted, redoing redone. A chainsaw sounds
far back in the woods where sweat comes and goes
and time mixes oil and story, sawdust stretching
toward sluggish noon.
Down snake-like gravel roads in blue mountain air
the hard scratch of hay waits to be pressed in bales.
By sloppy two p.m., stacking and throwing will build
awkward dusty trucks. Cows with shit glued to skin
will retreat beneath the trees, as shouted orders
echo then disappear behind sounds of machines.
Soon enough even here, time will slip—
a layered progression with evening swallows
darting in/out of the barn, lightning bugs rising
in the pasture ten thousand strong. Sweet cigarette
smoke will drift, and at the pond fish will gulp
habit in murmuring insect rich dusk. Then
again, as it should be in weaving shadows,
it will be forever before work begins.
Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.