Sean Patrick Hill
The Cutting Line
Red sun rising through the warehouse door,
the mill in summer.
Machines whirring like cicadas in trees:
the presses, the moulder; stacking and grading
wood for fingerjointing: this one cutback,
this one rerip, this one blueheart.
Wading through sweat and sawdust,
fingers cramp, joints ache,
and every now and then, the smell
of eastern white pine, golden pitch.
A grain of your life lies just beyond
the border of Nebraska where the roadmap ends
and the highway hesitates before its long fall
towards the Rockies. We break from the drive
somewhere near Guernsey, at a rest stop, along
one of the rivulets of loose ribbon
that commemorates the old Oregon Trail.
You remember heat-softened asphalt,
the interstate gripping the Great Lakes floodplain,
and the passage through Ohio, Chicago, Iowa.
There were endless cigarettes and cold campgrounds,
the lightening storm on Ogallala lake—yes,
your eyes, touched by flame, burned
into the windshield, while I lay in the tent
threading together its fabric with my eyes.
Behind you now, the world falls
into the sky, and the north fork of the Platte
deepens its reflection of summer corn.
For a moment, you are caught like a feather
in the spines of sagebrush, in the bone cage
of the bison. Tumbleweeds pause
then resume their dance. Cattle turn
and lumber like pilgrims toward the shadows
of broken mountains. Ahead, the Tetons, the divide,
an open range plunging into rivers of wind.