"'O' Street"

Pecan Grove

Real Audio (about)



I feel it now, rising, flooding beneath our feet, shifting from stones
hove up with heat and cold where years ago rough hands tore
the earth to lay the veins of the town, tearing out gravel, the roots
of trees, pipe laid by other men who lost their farms before the war
--who joked in German, French, Czech, broken tongues above
a broken earth. I hear them in the whine that resonates in old metal,
bursting with hard work and fifty years, bearing water from the reservoir,
from the river--home to home, to haul away our filth into septic tanks,
or back into the rivers where it disappears (or is it always moving
among us, out of sight, in the dark) like secrets hidden in closets,
like love poems written to the wrong man or woman, like an unpaid bill,
like the men five miles south in the state penitentiary, who bend
in the halls, and drink this same fluoridated, calcified, purified,
iron rich, and state-approved water rising up through the basement
of every home, connecting us all in one smooth, reliable current, borne
by bucket on the head of a villager or up from the well by strong arms
or into the veins of a child, heated by the growing of her body to become,
years later the vein in the back of the mind, sequenced in the DNA
to explode somewhere in the vast network of pipes at exactly 6:15
in the morning as the ground cools and barometric pressure rises
and suddenly falls and the metal groans one last time. At the exact
moment when the old woman who lives on the corner pulls the chain
on an antique toilet, the main will burst like everything that lives
and flows and is confined in the rich current of the world and like water
must come rising from beneath us, soaking the earth, chasing the possum
from the sewer, the cat from the shelter beneath the house, flooding
the street as it shifts and roars, become a river, become the artery
of the town made visible and boiling with first light, lost languages
hidden notes, the roar of the man in the cell, the roar of the woman
as she falls, her brain swelling, her arm going numb, the roar of the child
who laughs at it all from her window, the roar of water and the carrying
of water that knows no language but is always sending and receiving a message
we cannot know or live without, here in the pipe that is always bursting.

from nightwalking
by Joel B. Peckham, Jr.
originally published in Passages North