Frances McCue







Behind his house, the man hoards the shells of machines.  The eave-shadowed windows wink to the yard.  Onions loosen in the ground.  Slow.  The man takes inventory:  Two engines, face down; frame of a recliner chair.  He fears winter, the frost pasteurizing beneath his shovel and the sneers of a rocky, cow-nibbled field.  A tractor’s winged footrail tousles the grasses.  The barn’s roof—a swamp overhead, pushes for the ground.  Nothing keeps the machines in order.  Roots dunk the Plymouth chassis into a brush bed thick as sweaters.  Blue, the night quivers.  A rain shower feeds the slow fire of rust.


There was a dam in the eastern part of the country.  For miles:  no one except an old man who tended a gas station.  Few came there except the men who checked on the dam. Others were hopelessly, hopelessly lost.  The old attendant died from a strange breed of scalp mites, a parasite so unusual that entomologists from the country’s two large and faraway cities came to take samples from the coroner.

Desert funerals encourage prompt action.  In two days the old man’s nieces and nephews arrived. T hey wore leather jackets and ate orange peanut butter crackers.  One of the boys spray-painted DEAD on the gas pumps.  Later, when the tourists scrambled to the Scenic Overlook installed in the landscape, they pointed to the rubble which was the gas station. Below, the water turned over in turbines.

Scenic Landscape

The turbines arrive in boxes from Paris.
Once interlocked with spin-wheels
and nuts, and propped in fields,
the turbines look like tethered gliders

reaching up.  The sound is a nun’s whisper.
I’m dizzy in the heat.  Maurice, sent to us
from the dapple-lit house on the hill,
is an old man; his saliva threads

prisms to his lips, beautiful to a hornet’s eye.
Each turbine sheet spins like a Saint Christopher’s
medal I once had, glinting then lying flat
to the skin. Wine from these vineyards
is hearty and good—thick with wind and earth turns.


Copyright © 2004 Frances McCue.  All Rights Reserved.

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