Two Poems by Robert Lee Kendrick

Skeleton Shifts

Ten yards from the back door, a razorback  

snouts between trees, scent guiding tongue  

to late winter shoot. Short tusks, scant  


shield of cartilage under his shoulders,  

no match for his elders in scavenge or rut.  

No calling DNR. I’ll let him follow the creek  


to underbrush, return to his scratched clay nest.  

No work today. Skeleton shifts, carry out only,  

Maybe a month in the bank. Lock down  


and quarantine. April to May. I wake all gristle  

and scar. No reason to get out of bed. No grill 

to keep clean between orders, no tickets 


on the rail, no order up to Takaya, 

no cracking fatigue mat under my shoes, 

no regulars hunched over plates.  Just floors  


I sweep to sweep, counters I wipe to wipe, 

grass I trim to trim. Afternoons, I sleep. I don’t dream. 

Mr. Pell says we’ll make it through June. Corona –  


the crown of a flower. Fine by this boar.  

Fewer boots in the woods he scours. Snout  

to wind. Mouth turning over Spring earth.  



Uprooted by wind, a forty-year oak 
lies across blacktop, April leaves  
pastel green. Detours marked, no houses blocked 
on this half-mile road. For three days, The county  
has let this one lie as we wait for more  
storms, without lights or no heat, only  
backup chimes, diesel groans from earth  
movers. Pasture to Long View Estates  three  
houses left, the land changing hands underneath.  
Troy Moore on his porch by the stop sign. 
No hair to cut, beards to trim, not for a month.  
Close contact, non-essential. One cigarette 
after another. Past his house, a tattooed man  
picks cans from the ditch. Scrap metal still pays.  
Four county sheriff cars box a double-wide.  
Still plenty of cash in small plastic bags.  
A hundred yards down, the two Hayes girls 
bounce on trampoline, their virtual day  
done. Six Mile Elementary shut. Doll’s Eye  
blooms by the creek, white coronas  
spreading in shade. Poison to all but birds.  
No getting over, around, this trunk,  
these branches, the downed lines behind. Nothing  
to do but turn, follow my slim shadow home. 

Robert Lee Kendrick lives in Clemson, South Carolina. His poems have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere. His collections are Shape the Bent Straight (Main Street Rag, 2020) and What Once Burst With Brilliance (Iris Press, 2018). He is founding editor of Twelve Mile Review.