Two Poems

Photograph by Emma Perrone

By Robbie Gamble


A neighbor is pulling down his barn, and at the point
where the road I hadn’t walked since snowmelt 
gravels over the crest, I have a hawk’s-eye view

into the deconstruction below, the oxide-red-stained 
siding flayed back to expose timbered bones and gabled stories
of structure— a stolid box core, then the haphazard geometries 

of addition: sheds and chutes and cellar bulkheads
tacked on over decades as dairy prices rose 
and fell on tidal surges of the economy.

It’s a snapshot moment on a plaintive spring morning
where the air is earthy and fecund with pollen, 

and far hills beyond the pastures brush a faint wash 
of hopeful pastel against their forested slopes: 
billions of buds swelling through cautionary sheaths.

A crew of five is reclaiming weathered lengths 
of intact lumber, sorting clapboards and joists
into neat piles on the concrete calf pen floor, and as I stand

at the verge and attune to the rhythms of sledge and saw 
and clank and surrender, it dawns on me: this is writing 

made physical, the same determined work of demolition 
you must bring to the weathered narrative storehouse 
you have pegged and stanchioned together over the years,

stocked with festering provisions and implements
gathering rust. You wanted to expose the bare 

foundation of yourself again, curl up into its sunken form, 
and now you must devise a re-engineering plan

to assemble scaffolding, plot the courses
of termite and rot, sort the good wood from bad,    
sweep splinters and detritus clear down to the floor.

To work apart an old barn is leviathan in scale: 
the creak and swell and pitch of it underfoot, 
the stenches, the greasy rituals of flensing, of rendering,

the latitudes you must navigate to return to port
leaving a tatter of picked-over skeleton to drift into the deep. 

Night falls across your desk, and you rearrange your charts
again, scratching away at that salvaged manuscript 
beneath a sputtering haloed lamp, a fluke of resolution. 
What a Roof Means

Terror is not just beyond the horizon.
You must take some responsibility for decay.
The sheep in the orchard, they graze this way and that.
The rains come, or they do not come.
No one remains comfortable forever.