Three Men by Jordan Hartt

hood of blank sky a white man dragged
behind a ford wrists tied to a strong rope

in the truck cab two men drink rainier
beer the wailings of jimi hendrix drown

out the screams of the dying man
they bury him above a riverbank two

deer watch silently chewing leaves with
blank glassy eyes skeletal white bodies

of streamside cottonwoods standing in
careless witness as the final shovel-

fuls of wet earth are tossed on the pale
limp body

there is a moment, at
the end, where he

thinks of god, the
way he thinks of

the sky: distant,
and sometimes it

rains, and sometimes
it doesn’t and some-

times two men drag
a third behind a rusted

ford toward the river
where they bury him

deep in the muddy

he misses his wife for a brief instant
thinks about the way she would plant

tulip bulbs in the damp earth in front
of their mobile home yard

full of fishing net and styrofoam buoys
piles of cedar firewood sleeping underneath

mossy blue tarps he remembers the
softness of her hands she’d been

broken somehow years earlier and now
everything about

her was soft and gentle—you even drive

slow, he remembers kidding her, just
above a whisper

he (this is the third
man) notices that the

sky has opened up today; that
the clouds have, thank god,

thinned, letting pale
sunlight leak through; that

dark green trees flash by
he thinks of his son’s

gaunt face and loud motor-
cycle, and the way he would

watch television, at night, as
if willing the noise to drown

out the sometimes
overwhelming pain

trees river rope sky
dust truck wheels fir

trees flashing by in
silent accomplice

streamside cottonwoods
sullen wise ford

screeching on thinning
tires on the road above

the flashing river

through thin trees

the awful weight of

the sun

tell me the story of two
men who dragged a third

behind their truck to the
elwha and buried that

third in the dull wet earth
above the rock-studded

water water crashing against
the rocks the dull cry of shovel

blade into soft earth the thud
of earth and scrape of shovel

and the scream of the man
still playing in their ears

like on a scratched record
a hundred years later as

they drink beer
sitting on the front

or back steps of their homes not talking about that
day where they’d met the man in the diner and

the way he’d looked at them and then, finding out
what his last name was, visiting on him the sins of

his fathers and grandfathers, not talking about that
day where the light had been gray and soft leaking

down from what some men refer to as heaven and
others the sky, not talking about the screech of the

tires as he, the driver, ground

to a halt above the elwha and untied lifeless
hands from a rope he never remembered what

happened to that rope had he put it in the truck
bed or thrown it in the river or tossed it into the

overwhelming ache of the hole

with the dead man he didn’t remember nor did
he ever talk about it not even with the other man

or the streams of wives and girlfriends who
passed through his life instead he

barbecued and played softball and it were
as if the thing had never

happened which almost made it not worth it
almost and so he played it in his mind like

a slow motion replay over and over as he got
older until the thing had been played so often that

it had lost its sound and he forgot the screams
and the way the water had flashed past the rocks

and the dull scrape of the shovel and the heavy
groan of the body and all he remembered was the

sky, coolly distant, and the way empty gray
light had fallen like dimes around his shoulders

Author Bio
Jordan Hartt is the director of programs for the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. He is also the project director for the Conversations Across Borders Project, which pairs writers across borders to create new work. Previous creative work has appeared in such magazines as Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), Black Zinnias, the Crab Creek Review, and Prose Poem.