Log Jam (Former Presidents Chapter #53)
Black tips of the long hooking white horns cut
The roof of the forest like twin dorsal fins. Breathing
Heavily, boots unlaced, Paul Bunyan stumbled in the
Mindless, pulverized wake of the ox.
Its blood and ash flecked snout
Spewed smoke. Where the hell’s
My hat, my ax, he asked
Out loud. He sat, mopping the great pale cliff
Of his forehead, listening to distant explosions, choking
On gasoline fumes. He’d known this would happen
Eventually. Nothing lasts forever. An army
Transport came flying out of the forest
Into the clearing, catching him right
On the ball of his ankle. Goddamn it he hissed, limping off a
Distance as the truck’s engine exploded, bodies drooping from
The windows like drying wash. A couple of soldiers
Hopped out the back and ran into the forest.
As of now, he thought
Or said out loud,
there’s no way back.
This, he thought,
Is a much different story.
He could hear the beast
Roaring in the distance.
The rest of the story unfurled
In his mind like acrid smoke.
He’d been recast. No longer
Did the wilderness need tamed.
He saw how it would end, and shrugged.
Paul Bunyan stood, ground his heel against the smoking heap of tin,
And went to reap the brittle souls of men.
Darren Daulton crouched behind
the plate, ligaments in his knees
crackling like campfires
in a primordial forest.
he’d been pulled from the shadowed alleys
of Philadelphia and pushed
squinting into the Miami sun,
like a broken nose on a mannequin,
like glass on the beach.
warming up he caught without a mask, spitting black
through splintered teeth. at bat
he ground down like an old man
fighting with a rusted lugnut
on a tractor wheel, muscling
into the right field stands.
whyn’t you do that in the game, asked the gawky kid, the
million dollar kid, the kid
just back from the
that ain’t my job, he said, looking
like a tree stump in a coastal forest.
looking like a man-shaped patch
like molded loam and ligneous
clusters and the moving shadows
of living things.
like a man who the woods
had eaten. a frog
in the throat
of the woods.
what is your job asked
the kid, looking back to the other kids,
who knew enough
to look away,
to fiddle with the laces on their mitts.
my job, said he, and the sky went black, my job, he said, and the blackness
bulged, like bulbous eyes…
my job is
now or never.
and the kids, their eyes
like coins, for the first time then
the thousand dawns
in your eyes.
of your hair.
like a thousand
staggering dawns staggering
up off the beach at midnight.
do this now
said Dutch Daulton. do this now
or die. you will die. you will
do this, do this now, and/or
you will die.
and those boys, these
pretty pretty boys grew teeth and took
the field with hearts and eyes
already punctured in their minds.
they cut you
off of me- lightning twitched in a hot black sky-
the face of the sky snarled- He
wrapped a strop around my heart, threw
it like a stone- my heart
tumbled slowly, a stone through blood, for you my
missing half, I spun with one
big eye, half lips, I dread
what you may have
been going through.
I traveled a great distance
to a swamp- I sat, my
half, watching lightning strike
germs into fish and
fish into men- The gods felt bad. I heard half
my name. You
had a son- I had
The sky unfurled
and slapped the ground-
an altar, a cistern, a man
in a robe the light
shone on- I felt exposed, my half, my
bad side- your half
of the universe called
my name- I fought
through a cloud- where did all
these people come from-
burned- I kicked in the air.
you were a blade
fulgurating on the horizon- my story
has gone on too long
My name is Adam Phillips, and I make my living in Boise, teaching at-risk junior high kids how to write, read, and dominate on the basketball court (these are three separate things…the kids don’t write and read on the court). Every non-living-making moment is spent in Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast. Everywhere, I’m outrageously lucky enough to hang with my disproportionately fantastic wife and two small sort of bizarre sons.