Afflicted with a passion
(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
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,
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
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.