Mercy, Tear It Down

Poem By Michael McGriff

We were contracted with the prison crew
to take the ridge. Tear it down.
Trees, scotchbroom, fence posts.
It was too hot to smoke cigarettes.
My chainsaw touched a whole world
of yellowjackets in a beetle-rotten stump
and my skin went tight. I lay face down
in the duff after the crew boss shot me
full of something he kept in his saw bag.
An inmate carried half a hunting dog
like an armful of cedar bolts
from the last stand of brush.
What was left was swollen with ants.
The vise in my throat bore down,
daylight broke its bones across the ridge.
Tear it down. From there you could see
the whole town. Tear it down, tear it down.

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