Bill King



On a Highway: Mingo County, West Virginia

 
Nothing is stable if not divine. The rest is smoke.
            —Latin inscription on Andrea Mantegna’s St. Sebastian of Venice, c. 1490
 
Suddenly in sunlight,
bright leaves fall like small boats
pushed by some wind growing toward us
 
but we in a car in a country of strip mines
cutting crosswise past towns
could not see
 
its porch people  
one ridge behind
staring through the dust
 
of mountains blown low
 
and into the stereoscopic dreams
of girls gathering greens
of soot-faced boys swinging steel
 
all rock rock rocking by—
 
we in our bright new world of glass
could not be expected
to hear the rumble
 
to smell the smoke
nor ever ponder the choice
of this last generation:
 
to bring it all down
while humming hymns
 
or rip toe and tongue from its roots
and get on down the road.






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