One more Fourth of July
year two thousand and thirteen
getting my morning music fix
with Pokey Lafarge
& the South City Three
on the stereo console
singing about Cairo, Illinois
and me being a true-heart,
albeit transplanted midwestern gal,
guess you could say I'm real partial
to this sad, high, and lonesome song.
Day off work, course ~
ran my dog under morning pepper tree shade,
ukulele practice, then go visit
with my family down the street,
hang out, shoot the breeze
in my brother-in-law's garage,
check out all his new old junk
do a little bench racing
in Shawna's rustbucket
1937 Ford truck jalopy
too hot to put that starter in
so we run through joyful backyard
sprinklers in our shorts
bbq/sangria/fireworks sounds okay too,
and God, bless America,
damned sorry state we're in now,
sure could use some extra, anyways.
I prepare justifications to be close to him
drop boxes of office supplies on the floor by his desk
so that I can spend a few more seconds lingering near his feet, picking up
tiny metal paper clips and scattered number two pencils
vociferously proclaim impromptu donut runs to the bakery
my treat for the workplace, for him. Afterward, after work.
I pursue his car almost all the way
to his home, cling to his bumper
smile at him whenever I see him checking
his rear view mirror, veer off at the last moment
just prior to the turn-off to his cul-de-sac
stop the car around the corner and wait.
I fritter the night hours watching him sleep
first from the car, quietly parked across the street
then from the shelter of the bushes behind his house,
pressed against his bedroom window, my hands leaving
faint outlines of sweat on the glass
as I think of more ways to get closer
try to find courage to say the things I must say.
From the massive continent
of the school library's unabridged dictionary
someone has carved out
and set adrift
the island of a single word --
In someone's pocket
the purloined noun
bulges like raw diamonds,
it rolls around someone's tongue
like ice cream before dinner.
In the belated adolescence of my student years,
living by the words of the music
that blared my ears while I revised,
I spent restless nights alone
in exam stress and unacknowledged lust
while in the room above, your bedsprings creaked
as you made love to a woman
who shared my sister’s name.
Your daytime fingers making music,
the deep low thrill of bow on string
sent shivers down my spine
as I sat serious at my desk,
gazing through the window at the garden
where a black cat crossed the lawn.
When time stops for us, maybe
Light slows down to a crawl.
You can see it coming,
An infinite, immaterial glacier—
Glittering, clear ice crystals,
But soft and warm and reassuring.
Finally your heart begins to thaw.
And you think you hear, maybe,
Deep inside, the voice of God,
No louder than a trickle.
The sun is so bright
I see only bursts
shards of your presence
hover around the edges,
I can't measure.
The trees are green again,
spring in my pocket
like a quarter
when I need change,
if I can reach that cloud
I can gather the rain
in my hands
and you can drink.
I created the beginning,
you stole the end,
killed us both.
hovering around my edges,
a stillness in my chest,
a light that glows and dims,
stabbed by someone else's
spears of sunlight,
unaware of its power
because I ask it to.
Sleet on the turnpike
in the middle of the night
but I keep driving,
both hands on the wheel,
nowhere to pull off,
and a yellow bus
comes over the line
and kisses my truck.
That's all I remember.
Now I'm in bed,
wired to things,
unable to move,
listening to a doctor
telling my wife,
"It's been two weeks,
"He asks her nicely
if we should let him go,
the dimwit bastard.
If I could, I'd scream
but I can't even
wiggle my toes.
A half-mad letter was in my pocket all day.
All day it reminded me of disturbing things.
Things were not going well.
In the number of removed light,
it sent itself out, with distraught messages,
things no one wanted to hear,
least of all, me.
Its letters were moving around in my pocket,
how things should always be good,
but they never are.
It wanted the blueprint of memories.
He called often long after we divorced.
He wanted us to be friends.
It eased his guilt.
I shoved a cactus thorn under my thumbnail.
When he called next, I pressed on the red infected nail.
Venom ribboned as my thumb gave birth
Soon I allowed the machine to answer his calls.
The morning after my death, the light
comes up as usual, hungry flowers
gasp open to the sun, cardinals
rediscover the clever songs
of centuries past, you read this
and turn the page with a little shrug
(I see the birds’ red
bleed into the dirt, light hushes
the sky like wind on a puddle)