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Joe Cottonwood

Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

Marcy calls to the attic hole

where I’m banging around rewiring
Come down right now
on a day the office is supposed to be closed.
Marcy needs to move a patient
so I walk into a room where a naked woman
lies on the heavy chiropractic table
with chunks of ceiling plaster,
a towel over her bum.

Marcy lifts the table, foot end.
I lift the table, head end.
Table-woman stares at my tool belt buckle
and smiles at the absurdity. We are all human.
We all maintain dignity.

In the hallway Marcy explains
It’s her attendant’s day off
but her spine went berserk
so here we are.

Later, Marcy asks me to help lift table-woman
who is now in flowered dress and hat,
lift from wheelchair into a Rolls Royce
so Marcy grabs beneath the arms
while I dusty with attic dirt
grab table-woman’s bottom
and together we hoist,
my hand of necessity on a soft spot.
Which is briefly weird, I tell you.
Marcy notices, cocks an eyebrow.

Table-woman thanks Marcy, then smiles at me,
above me, sweetly but with condescension
as if I never, squeezes the hand controls
and drives stately away.
My hand remembers.

Marcy whose job is bodies says
You touch a person, something changes.

Steak, well done

Selected on the hoof
after peering in the eye,
how Uncle Merrel judges beef.
Walked by rope to an Amish man
who butchers, loads 500 pounds of meat
to Merrel’s 2-wheel trailer pulled by
smoke-popping bare-bones tractor
to a freezer in town.

A few cuts Merrel brings home and cooks
special for us, his west coast nephew and family
who followed the Oregon Trail backwards
for dinner which is mid-afternoon
on farm country time in Missouri.
Back home we don’t eat meat
but we don’t mention.

Uncle Merrel is a patched old machine
pushed too hard for too long,
threads of flesh bound in scraps of denim.
Sweats red oil. Shakes when idle,
then at top speed he groans and grunts.

Steak, says Merrel, oughtn’t be bloody inside,
you want it cooked but if you order well done
in a restaurant they get mad at you
and flame it too fast so it’s burned outside
but still bloody in the middle.

We appreciate we didn’t have to evaluate
this steak in the eye. Uncle Merrel
cooks with time, with sizzling fat.
Well done, still juicy but not bloody.
The farm way. And golly it’s good.



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