What Was Never Ours to Take

Peter Markus


We filled the back bed of the pickup
with railroad ties from Great Lakes Steel.
We weren’t stealing them, my father
said, when I asked. He used to work here
back when I was first born. I asked
because I didn’t want to be there.
I was looking for a way out. I was fifteen.
I had better things to do than steal
railroad ties with my father. Other laws
to break. Money to be made. We loaded up
the truck. Our hands stained black with creosote.
Later, we’d drive our stolen haul up north
to our cottage overlooking Lake Huron.
We cut them into two-foot pieces to make
steps in the hillside leading down to the lake.
How many times in my life would I make
that descent? I wonder if these steps still exist
or if they’ve become part of the sandy dirt.
We become what and where we are.
For good or bad. Earth and water.
Everything is borrowed. Even the sky.


Peter Markus‘ most recent book is the book of poems, When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds (Wayne State University Press, 2021). Other books include the novel Bob, or Man on Boat (Dzanc Books, 2008) and the novel-in-stories We Make Mud (Dzanc Books, 2011). He is also the author of a book of non-fiction, Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools (Dzanc Books, 2017). He lives in Michigan where he is the senior writer with InsideOut Literary Arts and is a special lecturer in Creative Writing at Oakland University.


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