One glove is all he can handle.
Two screws set in his arm
through the plate and bone.

It was dark when it happened,
that day in the mill house.
The saw shrieked and sheared the blade,
stopping with a fleshy thump
between the radius and ulna,
like the chop of a cleaver into melon.

He didn’t holler but we saw
the surprise, the confusion.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, not at all.
He was already wondering how
to put fatback, bacon or beans
into the bin without wages.

The foreman caught the blood in
wads of red workshop rags,
and in a fit rushed him to the company store
for bandages and poultices to last
the long hospital ride to town.

I was small but knew enough to
keep out from underfoot, unseen
when I heard the foreman
whisper aside to the Sheriff
No investigation Bubby.

I remember Pa’s wheatstraw hair shooting
out from under his denim cap
as he leaned hard against the car window,
the strap on his overalls broken,
a spatter of blood on his neck and chin.

Even on that rutted dirt road,
the tires squealed like sheep to slaughter.
So I ran on home to Ma, heavy
with the fretful news.
The one glove, all I’d thought to grab.

Now the corn is high and I gee and haw
with Clarabelle down row after angry row.
And Pa pulls with one gloved hand,
squinting his eyes in the sweaty afternoon,

the sun burning the raised red scar,
stoking our hunger, making us wonder
what winter will bring.
Two screws, Pa said, one was loose.

 

Hugh Findlay lives in Durham, NC, and would rather be caught fishing. He drives a little red MG, throws darts on Tuesdays, reads and writes a lot, and makes a pretty good gumbo.
Photo by Thomas Q on Unsplash
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