My job's not to talk about Paul's job.
I sit in the pickup and think about something else.
On my expenses I claim tobacco and paperbacks.
My job is the desert I have to oversee
and Paul's job is the sun I can't stare into.
Our pickup, thank god, is always and only our pickup.
A skeletal kangaroo draped on a crater's edge,
a stick-figure moving jerkily over the ridge cusp,
two distraction birds perched in a lancewood acacia:
this is what keeps my mind from fixing on Paul's job.
We have one CD in the truck we play till it skips,
Liz Phair’s ‘Exile in Guyville’: last year
it was ‘Diamonds and Rust’ by Joan Baez.
Both speakers are heat-warped. Joan's strum and words
have set crystal in me, frozen to mantra
I can repeat when otherwise I'd think of Paul's job.
My buttocks have dug an inverse arse in the truckseat,
a spit-gob cooks on the bonnet and Paul
is striding toward me through the red.
Scraping mud on the step's corrugation, he gestures
for me to rev the engine and hit the B-road
we’ll shudder along for hours in silence: him eyeing
his fingertips while I plough the career
I've planted, not mentioning Paul's job.
John Clegg's e-chapbook 'Advancer' is published by Silkworms Ink; a full collection is forthcoming. He was born in 1986 and lives in Durham, where he studies for a PhD.