When We Say Knuckle Down

we mean there’s torque to be
doubled, the way the quarter-
horse re-couples her shoe-heavy

hooves, head down, and throws
herself forward, we mean
the load in the sled demands a

hard haul ahead, the hill to be
taken as a problem not of moment
but momentum, we mean

the chili will taste better once
the bitter bread of winter’s eaten,
slashing our faces sheet on sheet,

just as in summer we mean
it matters not how hot the sun
if there are chores to be done.

The knuckles have nothing
to do with it really, not the ones
around reins or handles, not

the ones we wring like rags over
figures evenings—no we don’t
mean those—we mean the knuckles

of our wills, those folding bones
in there somewhere where our
lives have hold of the land—

we mean that the whole body,
the whole mind, the whole
damned soul is a goddamned hand.