Jon Cone's work has appeared in numerous small-press journals and reviews.
The Iron Men
The iron men rise. It is dark.
It rains upon the hard earth.
They go to their coffee.
Their worn boots await them.
The iron in their spines descends
Into the ground like spilled oil.
Let them leave their warm houses
And walk like hollow thunder
Along the steep cold road.
In the distance dark light answers.
The iron men go to the water
Where the river masses against the shores.
The trees rustle in the rain, timid,
Intelligent as mice in their wise fear.
The iron men lift shovels, then plant them
Like teeth into the dark crust.
They dig, unconcerned in the light rain.
The tips of their shovels strike a nerve
At the point where the river is born.
At noon sirens pierce the day's drum.
The iron men eat, they smoke.
One caresses rotten teeth, another
Feels the shifting cancer in his colon.
Along the warp of their pulsing spines
They stretch, unfolding like cut flowers.
Near the low fire the iron men squat.
In their black bellies embers glow.
Then they rise to return to the place
Where their blunt shovels lie wasted.
you gruesome janitor,
sheet from the cancer ward,
you old span of feathered oil,
black stroke across blue sky -
I wear my laborer's day cap
because I fear
you will pick at my head.
I salute you.
You enjoy the rain and you aren't afraid to admit it,
Yet some part of you resents the commonness of this pleasure:
How many others there must be who share this pleasure,
Like devalued currency.
This afternoon it rained.
You lay on the bed with windows open.
There was a wind, how trivial in one sense,
Since there is always a wind,
But this wind brought a singular caress to your back,
It approached without guile,
And you felt its cooling finger
Within the slouched mouth of your inert mask.
It passed like a fever,
It shook you in the moment and in that moment alone
You gripped no more than your crab-like feet,
No more than the dust locked in your claws.
If you were a man of means,
If you were a man whose life contested its making,
Free to make strenuous demands upon what life assigns you,
Then you would be someone out in the rain,
Jubilant, muscular, hilarious, god-like, doomed.
You would be doomed
Because in the world of rain
Nothing else matters except rain.
The shadow of the mountain proclaimed
The shadow of the full moon sloughed
The shadow of the pig submerged
The shadow of the cat lurked nearby
The shadow of the hawk attacked
The shadow of the open window curled
The shadow of the single leg sculpted
The shadow of the stone church wailed
The shadow of the dying sycamore mined
The shadow of the hand pump amused
The shadow of your father's jaw threatened
The shadow of your brother's head caressed
The shadow of your sister's child worked upon
The shadow of the raked leaves climbed inside
The shadow of the wooden bucket greased
The shadow of the doll's head abandoned
The shadow of your son's hand comforted
The shadow of your first kiss betrayed
The shadow of the unlit candle ignited
The shadow of the empty bottle intoned
The shadow of the storm cloud beseeched
The shadow of the new snow delivered
The shadow of the bell tower engulfed
The shadow of the ringing bell enchanted
The shadow of the dry light released
The shadow of the slaked host informed
The shadow of the keening sod announced
The shadow of dust protested
The shadow of ashes swept up
The shadow of the final breath
At Skunk River
Because the stakes are so high
The saying this instant
Because my mouth.
It waits upon its own breath.
Across the sinew where night hides.
Whenever trespass begins.
Because the saying itself,
At stake is at stake.