The light has been on all night,
dim through the glass in morning.
We wait for the welder.
Locals bring their woes,
snapped tractor hitches, cracked plows,
the back room hissing orange,
torch fire cutting plate steel,
boiling lines through the core of the earth.
The retail room feels medieval with chainsaw blades,
tow hooks, scarred butane bottles,
and dull metal bins of washers, bolts, and nuts
all soft with dust.
Gas stove burns the air
and everyone moves carefully
lulled by the bare flames.
A woman stands still by the heat, exhausted,
as the building trembles,
the enterprise dependent on one sick man.
He tumbles through the door with a bell hung from it,
rubbing his forehead to keep the thinking warm.
“Aw damn, you know, I don’t know,” he says.
The woman watches him sway off the chill.
She knows he’s trying to remember
where he put something deep under the snow.
He stares at the shelves,
molting stacks of old purchase and sales records,
filthy cords of paper surrounded by the business of fire,
and he can’t recall.
She says, “Cold.”
An old man’s curse, smoker’s laugh, gasp of the torch.
He staggers back out,
and we wait.
“He’s having a good day,” she says.
We look down.
“If anyone ain’t afraid a hell,” an old farmer offers,
then stops himself.
The dead man is staring down and swinging his arm,
cracking ice off pipe with a hammer
outside in the afterlife.