Iowa Writes

TOM REITER
Silt


"More bread, more bread," the boss cried,
stalking the line from dough punching
to wrapping. "The sandbags are holding,"
though he had on fly-fishing waders
to our sneakers.  Then someone called out,
"She's over the loading dock,"
and I couldn't find any sense in feeding
loaves into the conveyor-belt oven
when the exit end was the Mississippi.
The boss's new Edsel floated
into the Immaculate Conception
Parish bingo hall as I left.

A flood stays local in lore. I walked
the rising edge past Hatzenbuehler Park,
home of our Cubs affiliate the Crayfish,
where the water-level on the centerfield wall
was an easy double, then past the flooded
rail yards and brewery.  In the town square's
gazebo, a man was working
a long-handled net to land bottles
of Black Hawk lager.  And as he finished
each one he laid it at his feet
carefully for the nickel deposit.

"More bread, more bread," the boss cried,
stalking the line from dough punching
to wrapping. "The sandbags are holding,"
though he had on fly-fishing waders
to our sneakers.  Then someone called out,
"She's over the loading dock,"
and I couldn't find any sense in feeding
loaves into the conveyor-belt oven
when the exit end was the Mississippi.
The boss's new Edsel floated
into the Immaculate Conception
Parish bingo hall as I left.

A flood stays local in lore. I walked
the rising edge past Hatzenbuehler Park,
home of our Cubs affiliate the Crayfish,
where the water-level on the centerfield wall
was an easy double, then past the flooded
rail yards and brewery.  In the town square's
gazebo, a man was working
a long-handled net to land bottles
of Black Hawk lager.  And as he finished
each one he laid it at his feet
carefully for the nickel deposit.

How many times did men like him awaken
to nightsticks bumping over rivet heads
along the sides of boxcars, then have
the town's name beaten into them?
I could tell him from the others by
the missing ear. Years before, a gang of us
after setting our trot lines for catfish
trailed him along the tracks, calling,
"Hey Bo, here come the yard bulls."
Suddenly, just to teach us who we were,
he turned to face us. He fingernail-
spurted a kitchen match then flicked it,
no, it leaped, grace and rage together,
into dry grass around a wooden shed
storing kerosene and railroad flares,
then he vanished into the switch yards.
The bulls took off after us, but we stayed
enough cross ties ahead to get away.

The man's bedroll and greatcoat
kept him afloat for a while on his way
to the sheriff's grappling hooks.
Coming past me he looked up, lifted
a bottle in a kind of salute, as if
outbound on a mainline freight
for New Orleans or the High Sierras
and I was someone who wanted to be him.
Meanwhile the loaves I had baked,
pumpernickel and white and whole wheat and rye,
came tagging after him down Main Street.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


TOM REITER

Tom Reiter writes, "I was born and raised in Dubuque, and graduated from Loras College in 1962.  My most recent book of poems, Powers and Boundaries, was published in 2004 by Louisiana State University Press. In 2009, LSU will bring out my next collection, Catchment."

This page was first displayed
on November 25, 2008

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