Tak­ing a Stone

The Iowa Review - - STEVEN KLEINMAN -

for Jeff

The worst was a new load of pine I was four­teen the truck un­load­ing out back we’d stack the wood

by the saw its teeth sharp and quick I knew what it could do it could cut a man’s hand off but more likely

a few fin­gers in a pile of saw­dust we’d have to search them out we’d have to un­load the wood step-high to avoid

trip­ping on what was there on for in­stance un­tied shoelaces piles of saw­dust scraps of wood

near the metal trash can the trash can a crushed can of soda my own tired heels scrap­ing the ce­ment floor

I was too young to push the wood through too young to lose a fin­ger though I could catch I could clean I

could sweep the dust fill­ing the air I knew full well what vi­o­lence the world had for me rain hit­ting the tin

roof the wind out back the shop sang and off we’d go like a fin­ger to catch the wood off the saw

re­peat­ing the mo­tions un­til my arms ached I felt so weak I felt there were so many ways to get killed

or maimed then just yes­ter­day there was a stone on a con­veyer belt that shouldn’t have been there a fac­tory

in Sharon Penn­syl­va­nia where my cousin worked he grabbed the stone was caught it took off his skin

up past his shoul­der part of his arm at least he didn’t die my cousin I can’t picture the belt I’ve not been around

one like it but I know what can take an arm I’ve seen what a taken arm can do I’ve seen the arm

taken arm­less man on the street I’ve looked away have stared been hope­less I’ve been so very hope­less

ever since like there is no rea­son to hope my mother calls says they might not need to take more.

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