Two Poems by John Estes

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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.


Greensburg, Kansas
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.

Photo credit: Mark Lobo . via photopin cc is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.