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Native


At sixteen,
sixteen miles

from Abilene
(Trent,

to be exact),
hellbent

on being not
this, not that,

I drove
a steamroller

smack-dab over
a fat black snake.

Up surged a cheer
from men

so cheerless
cheers

were grunts, squints,
whisker twitches

it would take
a lunatic acuity

to see.
I saw

the fat black snake
smashed flat

as the asphalt
flattening

under all ten tons
of me,

flat as the landscape
I could see

no end of,
flat as the affect

of distant killing
vigilance

it would take a native
to know was love.


Christian Wiman

The New Criterion

June 2013


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