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The Well Room

Lift the old board and a coolness
shaped like the inside would rise
with the held-in smell of rust, webs, wet
cinderblock and earth, many-legged lives
thriving in the blind black, forgotten
hollow that thumped like a drum under
our bare or sneakered or snow-booted feet,
in the very center of our yard, beneath
kick-the-can and hide-and-seek, below
our noise, drama, schemes: another room.
It housed a pump that pulled water from deep
ground to our faucets. In my head it drank
from the river down the cliff where we caught
catfish, bass and eel and threw the eels back
but dark-skinned men sliced them into pieces
to bait hooks, blood redder than our own blotching
the sun-warmed concrete beside the spillway
that swallowed boys who tried to run it in tubes.
Trees, stars reached from places no one could see.
A lame dog and a sick friend disappeared.
Once, to be as brave as my brother, I crouched
in that squat hole while he pulled the board over,
the bright summer day and all that was in it
drifting too easily away without me.
When the pump failed, our father would lower
himself in, stooping to the work, cursing, rising
to search his tool chest for a different wrench, the one
that would bring the water back, the top of him
sticking out of the mouth, going down again.
 








Jay Udall's poems and short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five publications. His fifth book of poems, The Welcome Table, has just been released by University of New Mexico Press. He teaches at the University of Nevada and lives in Reno with wife, Suzanne Andress-Udall, and their young daughter, Rachel Lee. For further information, visit his website: www.jayudall.com.


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