Poems

Cross-Country

Remember Edward Hopper’s painting Automat?
That’s where I am now. At a Flying-J mega-plex
in Barstow, California, drinking coffee under trillion-watt fluorescents.
For five days I’ve been sleeping in Hideaway Cabins
and Dutch Huts from New York to New Mexico.
The whole time the road going by has sounded like the ocean,
trucks, when they passed, like waves coming in.

At first I thought I was coming to see you.
I composed soliloquies, practiced kissing
in the rearview mirror. I crossed many rivers,
some with famous names I had heard before.
In Oklahoma I saw signs which said
“Do Not Drive Into Smoke” – this made no sense to me,
but I kept an eye out for smoke just the same.

It has been a long trip. In Arizona I stopped
and bought you this postcard of a giant jackrabbit.
The sky that day was as blue as in the picture,
the jackrabbit ceramic, his saddle horn higher than my shoulder.

At first I thought I couldn’t do this alone.
Now I realize that another human being is poor insurance
against loneliness, and anyway, loneliness is patient
and gentle and doesn’t demand very much.

So now here I am in Barstow, writing to tell you
I am almost to LA and have decided not to stop.
I have decided to drive straight through.

Published in BorderSenses, 2004.

In the Driveway

The fold of her body is a frame to look through,
thoroughfare to a memory of skin’s salt,
sharp aftertaste of late evening, the sun going down.
in the lick of light, the driveway’s baked pavement
steams under the spray of the hose, water rising
in a smell of hot metal and warm air,
suntan lotion and damp bathing suits
crumpled in towels on the bathroom floor.
the mind knits scent to knowing, as if a whiff
of wet driveway and stale swim suit could resurrect
my sister as she was then, and not merely that even,
but her love for me. how much of what we remember
ceases to be true? then the girl in the peppermint-striped suit
with her sisters washes mom’s station wagon,
the low sun glowing their skin to red perfection,
and nothing has happened since to cause us to doubt
that this is right, this is all there is.

This poem appeared in The Blue Moon Review, 2001.

The Cup on My Windowsill

refuses to break or shatter.

No matter how often I throw it
after your retreating back,
or slam it on the desk, hard,
so your coffee spills.

It stays simply cracked – just so –
a pale scar arced through
the glaze of dark sea blue.

Any other cup – corningware,
glass, chipped thrift store china,
would have surrendered to my rages,
gone gracefully into pieces
tumbled into the dustpan.

When I leave you, this cup
is the only thing I’ll take with me.
Unpacked from newspaper
it will be a ceremony, my flawed,
ordinary reminder of how I endured
even myself in the worst of times.

This poem was published in Common Ground Review, 2004.

Tornado Chasers

don’t know what causes weather.
It’s Cathi in Miami who called
the latest hurricane, beating winds
with a wooden spoon while she scrambled eggs,
counted another night he didn’t come home.

In Minneapolis, Susan brought sleet and six feet of snow,
stalling his truck on the expressway
before he could return with the whiskey.

Felicia in Seattle is responsible for the volcano
that blew its top the day her grandmother died.

Doppler doesn’t have a chance.

Their wombs are knit to the sky.

Some of the clever ones know it,
burn the toast on purpose,
rub the ozone,
molecule by molecule,
swatting flies with a kitchen mitt glove.

This poem was published in the 2001 Science Fiction Poetry Anthology by Anamnesis Press.