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poetry A Dream of Quitting Time

For the Labor Day holiday, David Salner offers a poet’s glimpse of what it feels like not to be working while working a long shift at night.

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A Dream of Quitting Time
(Part 4 of Sand and Steel)

By David Salner

From break to break, I’ll wish my shift away,
shower off sand, go out into the crystal clear
all-clear of quitting time—midnight in Arizona,

soaring like a nighthawk over Guadalupe,
this town I work in, where Yaqui Indians
have been driven into the corner

of a long-lost nation; sail further
to Apache Junction, home of Nate’s Used Cars
and GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS; to Globe, Morenci,

where copper towns are dying, leaving high-rise dumps
of orange tailings, listless hills of slag;
or down the dried-out Gila River, into a basin

of forgotten lives, where Brandi Riley
says goodbye to Jason Sanchez, a loud kiss,
a silent night in Casa Grande;

or float above a lonesome birds-eye
of saguaros; careen on desert monsoons
almost to the border; to Bisbee, home of the famous

deportation, surrounded by the tufts and brambles
on the otherwise bare-assed Mule Mountains—
I’ll float into the desert night, beneath a firmament of sand,

of countless grains reflecting death foretold,
forever shimmering with ghost-town stars.

David Salner has worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, bus driver, cab driver, longshoreman, teacher, baseball usher, and librarian. He was a telephone solicitor for 24 hours. His writing appears in recent issues of Threepenny Review, Salmagundi, River Styx, Beloit Poetry Journal, North American Review, Nashville Review, and many other magazines. He is the author of Blue Morning Light (2016, Pond Road Press), which features poems on the paintings of American artist George Bellows.