Atop schizoid dirt

Mark Vogel

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.