Three Poems by E. A. Greenwell

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Loren finds a bible in the county recycle.
Some can pitch the paper. Some, the world.
Back home, we’d sit and curse humidity.
I can’t blame a blasphemous recycler.
I can’t blame water for how it warps a page.
When I lose a tool to rust, I’ll do this anyway.
Loren shows his alfalfa salesman the name
Of someone’s father writ inside its cover.
They shake their heads and look into the fields.
Disappointment is a common ground.
Brothers Pete and Andy were fishermen…
(In other words, specialists in vast opacities.)
Was it the invitation that made their nets
And little boats so easy to leave behind?
Water cares not for names of books or lineage.
The ocean is of currents vastening, which
Makes it lineage, unyoking it from lineage.
This is the Atlantic. This is the Pacific.
This is the bible, and a new home I’m giving it.



Taking a Break on a Slight Hill

Up here, windrows dangle like green ropes from the horizon.

A cardinal flies in the thick, leafy head of a horse-chestnut.

Mr. Carper said they have invasive roots that grow and grow.

That bird bones are hollow, and horses are low winds of muscle.

The tractor stalls out and maybe it breaks down for good.

I loved how he said Science to us, as if he were handling glass.

He parted his hands like Moses and whispered, Our universe constantly expands.

The farmer has half his body wedged beneath the hood.

An explosion always finds the path that’s least resistant.

And time will dilate if you ever come close to the speed of light.

The engine fires, backfires, and he goes back to bailing grass.

He’s still in there—Cardinal, will you stop your awful solo?

Oh. I only have a minute left to choke down my jelly sandwich.

Up here, windrows dangle like green ropes from the horizon.




                          Another day that looks like rain,
            Or maybe that’s the light, blue and rising as it is, at such
An early hour.

                        Something picks at the road.
            A clearing. Or a lot? In a lot, three trees stand apart, leafless,
Like a chord

                        I don’t recall hearing before, and far,
            As if struck in a big tank. I want to feel guilty, at least, having
Witnessed it.

                        Back home, I load the stove,
            Gone to a fist of coals. Our dogs will soon come whining
At the baby gate

                        So inside I stare at the mountains.
            Snow still clings to the back of their heads. Aren’t we lucky?
They always say.

                        Not the mountains. They went
            Mute months ago. The first lawnmower of the season hums,
Or maybe this

                        Is a bullroarer, or some other sort
            Of prototype for telephones. I reach to touch returning birds
And pull a muscle.

                        My capacity for a thousand things
            At once lives in waiting: for rain, for some old man to whittle
Holes in sticks.




E. A. Greenwell grew up on the Mississippi River. Recipient of Writing in the Wild and Centrum Writers’ Conference fellowships, he is the 2016 PEN/Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident. His work has appeared in Willow Springs, Lake Effect, and Kahini Magazine, and is forthcoming in Boston Review.

Header photo of tree with approaching storm by Bessi, courtesy Pixabay.

Try-Ons is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.