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.