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Joe Cottonwood

Joe Cottonwood repairs homes for money and writes poems for reasons he can’t explain. He lives under redwood trees in La Honda, California dodging wildfires and playing with grandchildren. He is the author of the underground novel Famous Potatoes. His most recent book of poetry is Random Saints.

We should show more love for bolts

I tell Roy he bought the wrong bolts.
Black iron, they’ll rust in this forest, this rain.
We’re building his cabin way out nowhere.
I build to last.
Roy returns to the tiny country store
where the hardware man laughs, says
Those bolts will be there
when you and I are long gone.

Building a trellis with my teenage son
who is my summer hired hand,
we are bolting posts to concrete anchors.
Placing a steel ring on a bolt I show the boy
how one side of the washer is dull, one smooth,
and I want him to place the shiny side out
even though the clients won’t care
and in fact nobody will ever see
hidden by shrubbery and dust,
still I want the smooth side out because—
I know, Dad. He laughs.

After wildfire I return with Roy
down a washboard road through moonscape.
Roy is shaky, hair-trigger.
The cabin of 45 years is now smoldering debris.
We kick boots through rubble. Look, he points.
The bolts, still there. Roy grabs me in a bear hug
that lasts so long, holds so tight,
I wonder if he’ll ever let go.
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