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Nicholas Molbert

Men Working Above: demolition

Parable of Baiting

Men Working Above: demolition

Even after the day is done,
their voices undulate. Sweltering subtraction: the day’s agenda.
What is not worth making

                                                new, the thinking goes.
Nothing is inevitably arrived at. The jackhammer
                                                is no thought, all action.

The brights of those sentenced
to the fulfillment of another’s thought. The key to pass through
abstraction into the tangible

                                                is dailiness. Is chiseling.
Only in select conditions are we conditioned to praise
                                                when all is wiped away.

The contract mentions
Select Conditions. The catered lunch given up for lunchboxes
stuffed with PB&Js, the espresso machine

                                                for the water cooler sleeved
with paper cups, the ergonomics of the office chair for power tools
                                                specializing in discomfort,

destruction. Despite the lilt
of their days, they mount these machines, and their voices
morph into the dragonflies

                                                beating against fluorescence,
dumbly hoping to knock loose debris or dust of promise—no,
                                                the sound of the future

floorplan dreamt up and printed
on the latest drafting program now stuck to the face of the box fan
propped in the windowpane.

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Parable of Baiting

Time passed

            and, somewhere during,
            you decided this would be

the last time
I would come along.

            I passed my casting away
            from where you suggested

as Saving the fish for you,
but I steered clear for fear

            that my beginner’s luck
            might pluck a throat

from the throng
threading the belly

            of our flat-bottomed boat.
            If I was scared

of some damned trout
I could stop from flopping

            with my foot or palm,
            what else? Baiting—

baiting even minnows
half the size of the trout

            that would eat them.
            It was not that they are hard

to hold and slippery—
more that tethering them

            to a hook meant feeling
            what seemed like plastic

in their throats.
But because I cared more

            about showing
            I did not care

about hurt, I baited minnow
after minnow, punctured

            with a click the plastic
            inside them to the point

of praying for a better way.
I started closing my hand

            into a fist around them
            tight as a baitcasting reel,

and they gave to my grip.
When you first realized

            I was baiting dead ones,
            you told me to throw

them over. When the next
minnow was just as still,

            you watched me closer.
            Hushed, as to not scatter

the life left underneath
the boat, you told me

            to be gentler. What else
            did I expect?

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Originally from New Iberia, Louisiana, Nicholas Molbert now lives and writes in Southern Ohio. You can find his work at The Adroit Journal, The Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, Pleiades, and Permafrost among others.

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