Poems by Julia Shipley

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Life's Work

by Julia Shipley

From Canary Spring 2017

Julia lives in northern Vermont, an area very much renovated by glaciers, beside the Black River in the St. Francois watershed, one of only a few in the United States which flows north.

I was nineteen, almost
twenty when the driver
gave his bully bus a break
on the brink of the Great
Outback by an anthill
taller than he, actually,
there were three termite
towers comprised of silica,
saliva and centuries of sustained
intent—a monument
to minute contributions,
and the wheezing driver on the cusp
of his retirement pension granted us
this spectacle, wanted or not,
thus some of us studied this pinnacle
of a civilization while he rolled
his cigarette, and licked it shut.
Smoke break over, Righty-O,
he stubbed his butt and steered
the bus back to the bitumen,
to finish his piecework, his portion
of the multi-stage circuit:
twenty years along, I hereby
consecrate my witness to this
glory: how we go, how we come—
syllables accreting via saliva-ed
tongue, day upon day, rising
by the hour—our accruing crumbs.

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