It’s the hot smell of dirt that gets me most.

The snot in my nose bonding to rock dust and building a cast.

Sometimes I think I could puke from the feeling of my nostrils closing in.

Next comes the feeling of it in my throat as it cracks too.

My brow is a ledge for sweat, my clothes permeated with salt and moisture.

Water escapes everywhere, indifferent, not pausing to clean me off on its journey away from me.

It only leaves a sticky mat of fabric and human mud as my suit for the day.

I’ll drink more, every hour or so, to keep up the dress.

The sun’s tacky glow, fixed on me, feels like finger nails across my neck and forehead.

Then come the bugs.

They need their share too, I guess. But right now I wish them gone with the dinosaurs.

The slow churn of diesel in the background, promising a civil retreat when the work is done—the safe feeling of tomorrow’s distance resonating through five o’clock bench seats.

On other days it’s the rain, and wicking sleeves that press hard against me.

The cold handshake of the ground as I put my palm in it, always feels begrudging.

For nine hours at a time, I fasten trees to the ground, no matter what.

And because all I can do next is step away and then do it again—that’s what I do.

I’ll leave behind me a forest, and hope it suffers less the torment of what it took to put it here than I have.

Of my heat, my heart, my hands, back, and feet—I have given it my youth.

That it might grow to see something more than only my return, eighty years from now, with saw in hand, I have dreamed.

For I made it, and in doing so, often forget that it made me first.