Inland Empire

Twisting blue smoke betrayed the shape of the wind over the bare hills, 
the railway-sutured plain. A man in a green hat protected his head with 
his long hands. He was alone. He was unmanacled. His rubber boots were too big for his feet. Oily puddles reflected narrow columns, scarred 
monuments with wind-worn dates, names. 
Snow will fill the shallow ditches, enshroud the broken shovels, blunt 
chisels, frozen clay. He will speak to the mud, the stones, the sky. He 
will stir the ashes, the orange embers. Trees will shatter in the wind, 
explode with the weight of ice. 
The morning freight groaned toward the next bridge, toward another 
valley. His boots were rubber and too big, and his feet were colder and sorer, in the mud, on the concrete floor of the warehouse where machines clattered and women in circles of white fluorescence nodded over conveyor belts, gripped long knives in thick black gloves, and sliced and punctured. 
He pulled open the tall steel doors, staggering as he guided dripping crates beyond the smoke and the bells, and the chilly glow of after. 

Copyright 2001,  Robin Lindley