John Struloeff

The Man I Was Supposed To Be

The man I was supposed to be works
in a small cedar mill in Oregon.
The heel of his left boot is worn smooth
by the way the engage lever makes him stand,
the shift he has to make, grinding his heel,
a slow turn as the log carriage feeds the wood
that will shriek against the rolling blade.
He watches the blade eight hours a day,
and when he goes home to sleep,
he sees the blade rolling in the dark.
The man I was supposed to be has two sons,
and when his youngest is loud he twists his ear,
watching for the boy’s eyes to well with tears.
Knock off the racket, he says. The TV’s on.
If the boy does it again, he grabs him by his hair,
drags him to his room, then watches TV in silence,
the way it is supposed to be.
The man I was supposed to be buys beer in a case
and drives around at night, looking for a friend
to drink it with. He drinks until his face is numb
and awakens on the cement floor of his garage,
lying flat on his back, his arms spread.
Both of his hands are bleeding.
The man I was supposed to be tracks deer
on the leaf-covered trails behind his house.
There is a doe ahead of him somewhere,
and he kneels to place his fingertips on its tracks.
That night he will smell the rawness of warm bone
and blood. It will hang in his garage seven days
until he begins to separate the loosened joints
and carefully strip the flesh. He will do it alone,
at night, his forearms and hands coated in blood.
Like the stink of beer-sweat and fresh cedar dust,
this odor will stay in his skin for days.

John Struloeff
The Man I Was Supposed to Be first appeared in Rosebud Magazine, Spring 2006.