The Angle of the Winds and another killer appear on a highway going nowhere. And there, a fallen farmhouse as though the sky pushed down from above and the ground from below, timbers slowly snapping, swallows like souls bursting through the doors…
I know these people, living out here. They call it the spread, and having a horse is a true identity. Though most of them work in a shop or drive truck or are now on disability, they’ll always say they worked the land. They wear cowboy boots and jeans, give you Jack Daniels and Coke when you’re seventeen and don’t bat an eye when you start to smoke. They’re not very religious, but if you’re anything other than Christian you’re suspicious. They want homes set back from the road, with enough room for goats and guns, new tires and a transmission, a local bar to watch the game or just hang out in, a solid retirement or a government pension, and good television reception. They go to town wearing lace skirts and bolo ties, respect the man with a clean haircut and a straight stack of wood, make it part of the birthday celebration to burn the brush on the back field and float down river in inner tubes with coolers full of beer, follow local sports waiting to see if someone punches through to the big leagues, sneer down those who leave and shake their heads at those who never go, break out the snow tires and chains when winter comes and respect the idea of the cocktail hour, watch black and white movies for cultural history, play Tammy Wynette and Waylon Jennings, drive pick-ups and moto cross and get tattoos of Jesus on their biceps.
Too much, no way, you say, that all sounds like sad stereotypes, but I know these people, live among them: uncle Billy and his big gut he’d slap and call his investment went out fast with a heart attack at forty eight. Frank made it to seventy until he was taken out by lung cancer he probably contracted from asbestos he was exposed to in the navy, not to mention a lifetime of cigarettes, and the worst thing, he said at the end were the persistent hic-ups. Women hardening by thirty, relentless debt, foreclosure, weekends at the roadside motel or maybe Big Lake cabin, everything gambled away, and away we go down a misty trail, crazy Joe waving at the headlights in his eyes, the memory of us fading as he hammers another nail into his iron breastplate, porchlight fading, meadowlarks coming alive, and he lifts a hand and shields himself from another sunrise, thinking, never be in a hurry and you’ll always be on time, as the Angel of the Winds arrives and sets him going down the highway past the falling farmhouse and the swirl of swallows, earth pushing up from below, something else pushing down from the sky.
Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and a novella. His work has appeared in several anthologies as well as The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Galway Review, Bitter Oleander, Louisiana Literature and Slipstream. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart and Best of the Net and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Seattle. His website is https://douglastcole.com/.