Ruined Tunnel

One of them             drops radio into hardhat
                               and spits, Damn it,
                               boys, we won’t need this one.
But hell, they had already drilled
the charge. In the dynamite’s
wake, boulders turn to snow.
Men walk through the trees.
            It’s cool now in here.
Quiet enough
to hear tracks rust;
the Monte Ne line that never whistled through
and the summering passengers
unstartled by sudden dark,
the temperature drop.
Stones jut out,
gargoyles scabbed with lichen.
The steamy eye
of an afternoon
watches us from either end.
            We are waylaid by a spell.
A stone
slithers off
or I imagine this.
In the pitch I feel
the others when they breathe.
We are unborn. One
of our silhouettes speaks,
            There’s a camera in the car.
Bats opening like orchids.
The absence of one of us, unimaginable—
our present so intense
its tense is aorist.
Each of us afraid to leave
two men he loves behind.

Forrest Gander, “Ruined Tunnel” from Rush to the Lake (Cambridge: AliceJames Books, 1988). Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Rush to the Lake (1988)
More Poems by Forrest Gander