No Billboards in Vermont by Oliver Bendorf

Hard work in its horse boots
clomped toward us
down the trail to the cabin. We were
growing a garden, had been growing.
Our loft bed suspended us with books
to read after chores
while the lantern, sometimes two,
burned oil. We queer

Americana, we who
doubted whether
testosterone makes a man
while we crouched thinning dill
in the pickle patch.

We were working, working it out,
working until every animal was fed.
No play party or disco ball here,
just skin, scraped and eaten,
our muscles gnarled horseradish.
We were a boy
and a girl when we slept.

Work, rinsed of citronella
and dressed for dinner, was always
ready with a hand
to rearrange us. It palmed
us, weed whacked us,
flaked us like hay.

We were each a girl and a boy
when we worked.
Left alone in the field, we would have perished.
Duty called to us
from every broken bread,
from the hills and their goldenrod,
from the green mountains beyond that.
Tired was good.

There were owls
in the trees. We worked
for our sex. There were
woodchips in my boxers
in the morning.


Oliver Bendorf is the author of The Spectral Wilderness, selected by Mark Doty for the 2013 Wick Poetry Prize and forthcoming from Kent State University Press. Other poems of his are forthcoming in Barn Owl Review, Blackbird, and jubilat. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.