Ode to Paul Bunyan

Matthew Nienow


To have been blinded by the blade
just sharpened, its devil-toothed
grin swimming through the air
like whole schools of fish
or the ocean itself, a cliff
of agates, a sliver, a gleam,
the slit eye of a monster, a gash
in a silver creature’s side,
an opening to another world,
the crescent moon captured
and put to work, commanded
by the one man closer to god
than any other, who perhaps
should have been named Jesus
if Paul Bunyan hadn’t had
the perfect ring and pitch.

O, to have been witness to your work,
your ox, to have stood clear,
to have felt the thunder
of your cough, the shirring
of your breath, the rain
of your perspiration,
the earthquake of your step,

to have seen you sleeping
and think you the most beautiful mountain,
to have seen Babe standing over you
and think her the sky.