by Jeri Theriault


by Jeri Theriault

I walk the ends & starts

of June breathe lilacs & salt-marsh

car-spewed toxins last

year’s rumor of heat.

somewhere factories unmake (still)


like those boom-time

pulp & loom hard-breathing

jobs my ancestors proudly

glad for sweat & strain

the good work of their bodies

inhaled dirt & weed-killer

breathed smoke-stack

& cigarettes

work-paid mortgage

happy for over-time split-shift

side-by-side father/son

steady pay-check girl [my aunt]

in the back room breathed cotton

lint two decades

all of them artists

of their own lives like renaissance

painters breathing/tasting lead

white whitest of whites everlasting

clapboard-white chipped

sweet-smelling lead


pot roses & lavender cut

grass & clover exhaled after-shift

laughs & stories brothers

father aunt with the excised

lung in the too-small paid-for

house everything earned

with the work of dangerous


even now [somewhere]

a grandfather & uncles

water tomatoes re-shingle a roof

play cribbage in the cool moth-soft

near-dark breathe easy

breathe what we’ve always

breathed grief

& goodness alveoli enfolding

detritus & duff in delicate plackets

pit-scarring like the wind-burned faces

of far-gazing pioneers