Melissa Helton

Phineas, the Moment of

However it happens, the tamping rod 
strikes the rock and that spark flashes, 
tiny collision of iron and granite 
giving the tiniest bright light, 

that pause of inhale before the big bang.

The spark lands, a pilgrim, on the blasting powder, 
which is so damn eager for fire, so yielding. 
And the universe was created.

The tamping rod: 3’ 7” long, 13.5 pounds, 1 ¼ ” wide—
an iron spear. Its decisive path uncompromising,

it enters under the left cheekbone, charges behind the left eye, 
through the front of the brain, and explodes
out the middle of the forehead.

3’ 7” of iron 
sliding through your skull as easy 
as a toothpick into a cocktail olive,
a needle through garland popcorn.

Rocketing from your head, the rod throws you back, 
clangs down to the ground 30 feet away.

A fraction of a fraction of a second—
quicker than a person can gasp.


Melissa Helton is Associate Professor of English at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College. Her work has appeared in Motif v. 4, Pikeville Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and is forthcoming in Anthology of Appalachian Writers. Her first chapbook, Inertia: A Study, is available through Finishing Line Press.


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