The Wheels of August

by Jeff Alfier Issue: Fall 2015
Creosote on fence posts we readied for hardpan.
Blue smoke of my brother’s Galaxie, tread leaving
anger on the driveway pavement. The dank
stench of our basement I never entered, save
on an errand for my father, to fetch this or that tool:
pickax, spade, steel mallet and level.

Our brows and necks would never cool from swelter
thick enough to slow the wheels of August,
nor from the homebrew wine we shared on breaks.
I felt long exhausted even then, my escape
a poor premonition of prodigal flight from home,
where the dull mouth of our posthole digger

bit into stubborn ground. I was resigned to know
father-son work was in the order of all things
post-Eden, and whatever ran wild out there
couldn’t reach me, sweat-lit, chore-bound, fenced-in
every high noon. Day after day, my father cursed
stone and earth, like Cain—words permitted to singe

the air beyond my mother’s hearing, though he knelt
at Mass to chancel bells, the mysteries pronounced,
the Creed. Somewhere a neighbor’s radio would sing,
and we’d listen as we kept the faith in that good
ground. In the new fence line birthing its first
shadows. In our vexing, grating, hollowing tools.

Jeff Alfier won the 2014 Kithara Book Prize for Idyll for a Vanishing River. He is also author of The Wolf Yearling and The Storm Petrel. His latest work is The Red Stag at Carrbridge – Scotland Poems (2016). He is founder and co-editor of Blue Horse Press and San Pedro River Review.