Terminal Burrowing


we are autonomous
more so at the end
the brain stem begs
the animal for sleep
and we dig towards
hibernation though
the sound of finger-
nails peeling back in
permafrost sickens the
part of us that knows
a mistake when we
see one you’ve seen them all the coal mine is a trap with picnic tables
                             and the only bathrooms for miles though the name of
                                                         the town—Ashland—is funny as we’d
                                                         looked for fire but found only its husk
                                                         and precipitate narrow-gauge railroad
                                                         a pornography of which we are nearly
                                                         connoisseurs of the life-size dioramas
                                                         at track’s end all these miners beneath
                                                         flammable headgear and the sparks of
                                                         recreated tools flash on walls luring us
                                                         lightning bugs or glowworms radiation
                                                         the earth’s ephemera recast low-watt
                                                         LEDs against which our eyes adjust and
somewhere between the nose and the amygdala we know that we are
home in the dirt and the only way out is down
friction warming the ways
blood red on the fingertips
even when freezing death
finds us tempered houses
we are mammalian winter
nesting beneath the beds
or the chest of drawers we
pull ourselves close to floor
carpet peeling off in clumps
and hold it close to primordial curl into it the way the track under such
                                            weight can only bend a little at a time through
                                                         the Pioneer Mine the names makes us
                                                         uneasy to think they thought it best to
                                                         bring all the heat to the surface instead
                                                         of burrow and rest and all but disappear


Michael McLane is an editor with Sugar House Review and saltfront. He is the author of the chapbook Trace Elements and his work has appeared in numerous journals, including Dark Mountain, Denver Quarterly, Western Humanities Review, Interim, Laurel Review and Colorado Review. He is a PhD candidate at the IIML at Victoria University in Wellington.