Cover Up

The exercise in the Board Room was meant
to compare and contrast our Discovery
with Loss of Investment and Revenue.
The faces looking back had nothing to
say, the mouths silent, full of words we tried
to pick from their teeth as if they had chewed
on mouthfuls of leaves trying to get the
vitamins missing from our food. Later,
he and I stood on the berm where the steps
of the clinic used to be, the view blanched
but free, for all the buildings had been torn
down. What lay before us seemed a field of
asphalt and concrete slabs. We’re not even
going to dig those up, he said. He kicked
at the soil with the toe of a wing-tipped
shoe. The wind will cover the place with grass.

November 22

Arch, the primary school janitor, talked
     low and serious to the bus driver
though we could not have heard a normal voice
     over our shouts of glee at the day’s fresh
deliverance combined with the diesel
     engine’s knocking under the yellow hood.
“The President’s been shot!” someone cried as
     the doors flipped closed, and Archie’s bent back turned
slowly from us, his day having started
     at five a.m.. He was nearly eighty,
had been nineteen in the Great War, now called
     World War One and forgotten. He moved
back to the exit he’d left propped open
     with a brick, the afternoon a hot one
for November in Massachusetts, the
     boiler already on. The sun changed
with the seasons on the bus ride home. By
     then the leaves were gone but for stragglers, the
air without humidity, so edges
     were sharp. By afternoon the sky had a
whiteness that would evaporate when cold
     arrived to become blue, the sun dappling
the road and the floors of the woodlands we
     passed, for this was old forest, the first in
the country to be cut down, leaving young
     saplings which later had succeeded the
undergrowth, smothered all brambles in shade,
     become so tall by 1963,
with a canopy so thick, there was
     no undergrowth, nothing to snag us
in our youthful roaming where no bad had
     happened. Now we sat silenced in our seats,
thinking of Archie’s wet cheeks, the bus in
     and out through the blotches of shade and light,
the bus driver sobbing as she drove us
     home along the thin roads of our small town.

The Milkman

I want to talk about freedom but find
     myself explaining how we would gallop

on our horses down the old railroad bed,
     the rails and timbers scrapped for war iron

and trenches in France, the line perfect for
     speed, flat and graded. The only danger,

besides holding on bareback with your arms
     around your horse’s bobbing neck, was a

steel chain at the end of the long run to
     keep cars from turning off the road. Horses,

especially, knew it was there, began
     to pull up after the dash even if

we had forgotten. That new boy took the
     chain down one fall so he could shoot across

the road on his minibike to the bed
     on the other side, for he was from far

off and knew no better until the day
     he was hit by a truck that didn’t see

him coming from the side, the milkman who
     had been delivering as long as we

could remember, though none knew his name, just
     the sound of the diesel truck and the clink

of bottles earlier in the morning
     than we wanted to consider. Because

the chain had been removed, the man was not
     cited though he did retire after, the

highway just a short cut, once a service
     road, no houses, no reason to drive it

except to reduce the time between the
     dairy and village without back tracking.

Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have appeared in One, Fortnightly Review, Galway Review, Trampset, London Magazine, New World Writing and Appalachian Review.  Her chapbooks Turning Inside Out, The Way You Will Go, and Lost in Transition can be found at Black Lawrence Press and Finishing Line Press. She works at increasing literacy and, therefore, opportunity.