They fly down from the mountains
in their high-rise trucks with half-mufflers
rumbling and rattling, burnt diesel
trailing, scenting the air until long after
they’ve passed. It is Friday,
and shortly after you sit at the bar,
numb and sore from flipping sticks
at the mill, their trucks will roar
into the gravel lot, and they will park
at the far edge and slam their doors.
They talk and laugh loud
like veterans of an artillery unit,
and when they push through the door,
they’re all you hear.
They smell like overheated engines
and moss, and wherever they stand or sit
they shed wood chips and fine dust,
order mugs of watered sap,
tell stories metered in board-feet.
Mondays, after they’ve returned from hidden
lives in houses far in the trees,
they chew their sandwiches in the Mini-Mart,
looking out at their trucks beneath the cloudy skies.
They are trying to remember the trees
yet to be faced, sawed, and felled.
They are still feeling the jump
and kick and hum of the saws
in their hands. Too soon, the crew chief
starts his truck, and as it idles—
the knock-knock of diesel—the others
rise and ease their way outside,
nodding at the young woman cashier.
Their trucks clatter to life,
and they all back away and bump
onto the road, snarling and rasping
back up into the trees.
Loggers first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, June 2004.