Len sits and pulls a cigarette out

from a crumpled red pack that’s as red as blood in spit

that spatters against the sides of a white sink.

Flecks from white bone, face in the drain

a flattened squeezed flesh-tube,

goes by Len.

Aged dark face, forearms,

hands, and back of neck, colored

like iron from the mountains,

mountains shackled to his heart,

binding him to this place, these people,

life in these hills.

A lung full of smoke,

exhaled relief, a sigh floats

and swirls around,

lifts like fog off a mountain

and reveals a hidden meadow.

A smile in the midst of a rocky face.

There’s dirt in his heart,

boy to man on a farm, in the mines

in return for a piece of himself

to the mountains, he says.

His life was boots on gravel, loud thunder in a storm

rolling down a ridgeline, and at night, branches

scratch windows to remind him this place,

this is his place and it’s a strange thing

when the coughing begins it’s also the end

for all of them in these mountains.

And they’re ashamed, his kin,

because they’re glad it’s not them.

It’s him. It’s not them, it’s Len, and so it goes.


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