William Kloefkorn

Looking for Scrap Iron at the Village Dump

From Swallowing the Soap: New and Selected Poems by William Kloefkorn Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.

We find more than we are
looking for–not iron to be sold
to Darnes, the half-blind man
who would sell it to the man
from Wichita in the black dump-
truck to be taken somewhere to be
melted down to make a bayonet,
say, to kill a Jap or a German
with–but items of incredible
interest because we cannot
identify them, one a rounded
length of weathered wood our
father identifies as a singletree,
and when we ask him to explain
he does, and we are impressed
with his knowledge and awed
by the greenness in his eyes as
he speaks, a greenness I believe
neither of us had ever seen before
as likewise we had not yet seen
the greenness in a field of ripening
lespedeza, Grandfather standing
at its edge with his hands in the
back pockets of his overalls, Father
beside him listening maybe as
intently as we listened, my brother
and I, to what it means to be a
singletree, to follow the rump
of a wide horse up one row and
down another, my brother and I
not only listening but nodding from
time to time, as if we understood,
as if somehow our nodding might
cause the words from the mouth
of our father, who so rarely spoke
with such renewal, to keep on going.

Reproduced from Swallowing the Soap: New and Selected Poems by William Kloefkorn, edited and with an introduction by Ted Genoways, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2010 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.