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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