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Mudtime In the County


ISSUE:  Autumn 1995
His old man’s gone to ground, who bruised him black   when young.
So’s the drunken uncle whom people nicknamed Coal-   chunk,
who hurt him otherwise, who’s likely dead as well,
though how say how or where? Violently-in-jail
would make a decent bet, or in a ditch at nightfall,
some other savaged boy, grown at long last manful,
turning tables. This hero Ron—I’ve heard him called

the homeliest child who ever crowned at birth—now   crawls
in 4-wheel-drive along these battered roads to gather
trash, litter. Dumpman, living like his father:
Load. Unload. Pick over. Again. Again. Again.
Each day the three treks forth and back to Bethlehem,
our place for rubbish, waste. Yet everything’s reversed.
I’ve heard her named the coarsest woman treading earth;

her name and his, however, make internal rhyme:
RON & RHONDA, block print wrought in neon-lime
adhesive tape, and they have shaped the letters backward
on the grille. Their signs read forthright in my mirror.
I look back. They shine. They huddle close as bugs.
I see them share their Lucky Strike and warm noon Bud
and darktooth sighs, and up ahead and on each side
a world whose beauties had grown banal, old, and died
reverts to charm. Is it mere dream, that gleam in mud
the woodchuck hurled up, heroic, as she dug
her brood den’s pitch-black chambers? Fieldmouse tracks   and rats’
pursue each other over ditch and shoulder, back
and forth, while from a blighted pinecrown, grim as coal,
woodpeckers shower down their lodes of square-wrought
  gold.

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