Crawdad Nelson


At four o’clock the wind blew level and hard like water
over everything, so that moving forward from the pickup
to the gate I had to zip my jacket and put my shoulder into it
and move slowly under the camera and through the turnstile
with that familiar look—shuffling slightly, indifferent
to stinging dust, and smoke that took the breath away,

a log truck sat waiting to lift his trailer for the outbound run,
the driver standing nearby squinting, turned to me, red-eyed
and sloppy, worked up about the union in general and my old man
by name—he used the term cocksucker—and I curled a fist,
it felt like a stone on a rope, sinew and bone, elbow and shoulder
hardened by all those anonymous thousands of board feet,
the grasping and lifting, animated by the somewhat empty feeling

I found myself left with on the way in, another day
blown all to hell on the greenchain, swing shift, another dollar
in the hole and the somewhat desperate enlightenment
about what to expect from then on, a schedule
enameled on the watery blue by a smokestack
that was its own symbol and purpose:
black pen shooting impurities into heaven,
thick and stiff: frozen river stood on its head,
lifted above the petty circumstances of production;
leaving me therefore no choice other than
to keep that rocky fist right where it was,
let the bonehead speak his mind,
after all what choice did he have;

four-fifteen the whistle blew ten seconds and the chain
cranked ahead.


Crawdad Nelson works at a community college helping students learn to write, after spending most of his life avoiding college because of the effect it has on creative writing. He still manages to write a little in his spare time.