Age of Steam

Devon Walker-Figueroa

–for Bill Ames

There is hatred in trees. They make you
forget the taste of milk. I've seen them
snap, take those who climb them
with them. I've seen one pin a man
to the dirt that wasn't ready
to receive him --- the way his shouts scaled
the valley walls, the way
a voice can't lift a single ounce.

Our age was the Steam Age, and it was gone
before it was a go, before it was the story burning down
inside me, the one that isn't mine, nor yours,
nor any god's --- at the least the trees would say so.

We logged everything around the giants;
topped every spar that could be toppled; told
the only kind of jokes there are,
which is to say, we laughed about the chore
that dying is. And everything is
devastating as it is hilarious
when you stay upright just to spite the sky.

Devon Walker-Figueroa is the author of Philomath (Milkweed, 2021), selected for the National Poetry Series by Sally Keith.