Benjamin Mueller

lives and teaches in Ithaca, New York. His poems have appeared in Washington Square Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Negative Capability, Two Hawks Quarterly, 42 Opus, Split Rock Review, and Euphony.


Digging For Collossus

Most boys of this town grow up digging.
Rising each morning with the rusted shovels
that fit our fathers’ hands, to find our way

to that remaining grassy patch in the backyard.
We’d say we were digging to China
(though we meant any place else),

eventually getting far enough to feel
that familiar clunk: metal on rock,
a shutter straight to the shoulders.

Then jumping down to clear the dirt,
to reveal some immutable part
of the giant stone effigy of our pasts

that lay beneath our homes, our town.
There was a time when it stood,
and all gladly worked under its shadow.

Steve found the foot once, the toenail
the length of our legs, a buried crescent moon,
his shovel striking against, wild sparks
filling the cavity. Bryan hit what seemed
the thigh or stomach and for hours searched
with shovel blade for some crack or edge,

as if it had been a solitary rock
able to be wrenched free. This whole
town is pocked with holes. Each our own

stony end. Routes blocked by manmade
bedrock we had no hand in laying.
And always defeated we rise

from our hollow ruts to turn back
to dreaming. To fill our nights with girls
we’d never touch. Words we’d never say.

Cities we’d never dare set foot in.
To wake from fitful sleep to begin again.
To uncover the great statue, to claw

at the earth, ancient grit beneath our nails,
ache burning down our bodies.