Mr. Richardson’s Nails
George Perreault

On the acreage he’d bought, a long-
desired hayfield adjacent to his own,
a battered barn he’d torn down, piled here
and there, board and beam, the bones
of another structure oft risen in his head.

Between hayings, squash rows weeded,
were times we’d sit, the summer boys,
lean with hammers and pry bars to work
from the weathered wood, nail after nail,
most of them rusted, some badly bent,

and these we’d straighten, hands and backs
aching, imitating his farmer’s patience.
tap tapping them back toward utility
years before recycling was a word, just
making do in the old Yankee way.

The rescued nails would clank into buckets,
one by one, building a minor wealth, though
some were beyond salvage, and yet these,
these too were gathered, rattling another tin
like souls condemned to eternal flame.

But not wasted, the old farmer said,
those go into the manure pit, adding their iron
to the soil. Fire, he said, fire needn’t leap
into the sky, the smallest candle illuminates
the sacred verse, lights the entire world.

George Perreault’s most recent collection of poetry is Bodark County, featuring poems in the voices of characters living on the Llano Estacado. He has received a fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council and an award from the Washington Poets Association, was a finalist for the Backwaters Prize, and has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and selected for nine anthologies and dozens of magazines; recent work can be found in The American Journal of Poetry; High Desert Journal; Weber – The Contemporary West; San Pedro River Review; Gravel; and Sleet.