It was the kind of night June was made for,
a night worth twice its weight in syrup, lemon balm air
like a soft damp cloth wrung & wrung
by capable hands. It was a thick night you could eat
alive, a souped-up night of steam & ginger,
a night no one quite believed was real
except it was there & ripe for the picking,
cash crop of love under the butter moon.
The boys & girls slipped out of their skins,
took the dark lake like a sidelong glance,
parted the curtains of cedar wood as the firefly
meteor shower began. One boy on the shore
cupped a bug in his hands. It was cold light,
perfectly efficient. He showed it to the girl
dripping oil & water, how the bulb kept pulsing
but gave no heat. The night spread a rumor.
But the girl believed it. Her heart was a peach
in a bowl of bones. His heart was the stone
& he hunted for insects, spelling her name
in fire on the sand. He said look the moon’s
drawing water. Meaning: forecast. Meaning: rain
though she heard you are the halo, the weather,
the circle of cirrus conjuring change. Then the night
stepped out of its black chemise & lay its head
across their laps, the pale night shone
like a coin in a crack & they fell to their knees
to palm it. Night of fingers, night of tips,
shameless night that would not sleep, pastille
night she put under her tongue & sucked the sugar
till sugar was spit. Then he slipped it quickly
into his pocket & it balled up small, picked up
lint. It swallowed its pride & turned to a pebble,
then a piece of gravel, then a speck of grit.
(originally published in Puerto del Sol)
The big winters come in threes,
& so we are due.
Summer died last night. I was driving
fast down Cemetery Road—
my high-beams carved a white tunnel through the black,
swept the edge of the corn
with their x-ray fury, the corn
flashing by like a bamboo forest, so huge & leafy
I didn’t recognize it.
Home. No porch light:
forty degrees & dropping fast.
The gardens were uncovered & the coyotes
whooped it up, the cat out hunting, the dog out cold
but trembling now & then, whining in her sleep—
what kind of dreams will bring a dog to weep?
I wanted to be the kind of woman
who always has a bag packed, a small bag
with underwear & potions
ready for the road at any moment.
I planned to follow my life
like a divining rod, & where it dipped
I’d stop for awhile. Dig for water, drink.
How could I know that a stick would root me
here, at the crossroads of dust & corn,
here in the boreal forest of change, the winter
coming on like a freight train roaring,
pulling its rattling months of cold?
And me on the dark road, parallel to the tracks,
racing that engine to the river.