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.
Wasn’t I beautiful, wasn’t I desperate,
didn’t I give a shit about world peace, inner peace,
only wanting it, wanting it, secret graffiti
spelled out in lip gloss on the locker-room wall?
The new underwire bit into my ribs, pushed
me up and I caught the mirror, wanted it, cocked a hip,
wanted it— front seat, back seat,
down on the floor, brag of bruises
blooming like plums on my neck, tender,
bad and legitimate. I wanted
to ditch it, wanted to drive, alone
in the car for the first time, silence, such
concentration my hands tongued the wheel. I could see
the brush-stroke of each yellow line, could feel
my tires crush pieces of gravel, and my ten toes
alive inside my shoes, firm and quick
on the pedals. There was an orange
lodged underneath the clutch. Squeeze it and shift,
squeeze it and there. Those boys
who juiced the halls with slouch
and threw their bodies around the field— they watched
when I punched it to second, third, burned my tracks
along the high school tar. They looked at me
as if I could kill them. They wanted to kill me
back against a locker. I could feel
my body jammed up on metal, my skin
in ridges where the grates dug in,
my skirt hiked up, my muscles like fish,
my third eye watching from the outside in.
I was some other girl.
I was anyone’s candy.