The Lineman

“I hear you singing in the wires,
I can hear you through the wine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line” –Jimmy Webb
The medic and I carry the stretcher
over, place it on the grass;
open the cot cover, get the airway bag out,
turn the oxygen tank on, turn it off
Time becomes concentrated, compressed.
The IV bag is spiked, the tubing primed. A drop
of saline drips from the drip chamber.

A crowd of firemen, first-responders,
and linemen have gathered on their knees.
They are peering down a concrete hole
wondering what the lineman’s fate will be.
I hear them say, He fell forty feet, after the cable
snapped, he’s twenty-six, from Oklahoma,
had a pulse, but now they can’t find one.

Two rescuers have gone down
into that hole. It is hot and crowded as hell
as they carefully saw away
the re-bar impaled in the lineman’s skull.
They place him on a cot
and hoist him up with a crane.

Once again, death presents itself:
mortal and exaggerated,
paralyzed and open-boned,
with the body’s violet, swollen tongue.
There are no answers here.
I know nothing of this man
except, for a moment,
when I touched his cold and heavy hand.

There are no answers. But there is
something about being so close to death
that brings us closer to being alive.
And the job of the lineman, extraordinary, really;
like an impossible metaphor
trying to keep us all connected.

And I look at power lines so differently now,
how they stand out among the landscape;
their poles like lonely crosses,
their lines sagging through pastures,
and valleys across roads and over state lines.
I watch sparrows, grackles and crows
perch themselves on the wires, and I notice

there’s always one or two

that keep their distance.


kristi_grayscaleKristin Laurel is employed as a flight nurse. She studied creative writing at The Loft Literary Center (MPLS), where she completed a two-year appprenticeship in poetry.  Her first full-length book, Giving Them All Away, was the recent winner of The Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. 



Kristin Laurel