i asked her if she was okay and then asked her again
i can scarcely remember anything but her eyes
i looked away and just as quickly realized i didn’t want to
i want to be so close to you me good her offering her lap and i want more
i moved my hand the back of her leg she pressed it then stopped
closed her eyes i asked her if she was okay and then asked her again
isn’t this weird me firmly and to her only we’re in a pickle her a pickle
i don’t recognize what do you want i want more i want more i want more
i want to lay down with you i feel more seen by you i’m worried i want more
i want more stay here as long as you can i want more i want more i want more
i’m always in pickles you’ll get sick of it i want more you’ll get so sick of it
i want to make things with you don’t kiss me now you are unlike so much
We are in the back of the car,
I follow the warm blades
of your fingers grass of the
sun's gatherings to their root
and with my hand curled
under your belt feel your purring
breath charge my fingers
with its wanting wanting wanting.
stuck on eternity, slung shot past a dazed, bloated camper,
cutting off the pissed housewife counting her sex change as reason to go
diamond lane. I watched you get on the road after that Miata,
a name in Old German that means “reward.” You knew that!
You know all our names, our Triumphs, our Prius,
to “go before” know the names of the inventors:
Mr. Ford, Mr. Buick, Monsieur Chevrolet. Know my name
deep in the blue dash light, when we’re hurdling quickly nowhere,
miles over the limit, alone, as we have always been, hurdling into
the future, always the future, radio gone static, a fingernail moon,
the mossy green lights of the exits in radiant crowns.
Seeker and taker to meet our quota of dreams;
others may falter but we go on and on and on.
Never the river when I’m driving.
Standing, never the sky.
Never the branches when I’m walking,
The tree tops, moving, moving.
though it doesn’t exist and has never existed,
shaking off the dream
I have raised my foot under the tree canopy
which never falls, or falling, never lands.
shake off the dust.
and papers long and sooty halls, lit by
one torch or two, not much
where ground is ground both down and up,
and pinetree struts that lift the earth
rot in damp and dark.
ignore the lines and grant a glimpse
of how God holds her pen. And then
Dad appears, his boot soles high and still.
its bones, the street layout that was squared,
but not really. I called the turns to a music shop
I’d never been to before, but remembered seeing
on the way somewhere else, maybe the dentist, or maybe
the Hoover repair shop. It was a city graphed
through a ten year old’s memory. I knew Wesley Hospital
and the graveyard next to it, both times the impetus
for an unspoken joke about proximity. Crossing the tracks
that mark the difference between east-siders and west-siders
on 21st Street, I was the only one who took a deep breath and held it,
my automatic preparation for the block that mixed the stockyard
with an oil refinery. Great swimmers come from Wichita.
Peter Pan Ice Cream was no more, but come sundown
Friday, teens still dragged Douglas, and it was still
against the law. We were down from K-State in Lloyd’s
blue ’67 Chevelle, bored enough for a road trip in search
of a wah-wah pedal and live music, but I didn’t know
night spots. The music of my childhood was sung in church
or in my head, mouthing harmonies with the angels.
I come from an assembly line of sleeping it off outside
the youngest in a line of don’t take no shit, no stranger
to the smell of oil and beer, Motown, Oldsmobiles that won’t run,
and women who finally did, no stranger to the fear of rivers
with fast currents, pressing worms through hooks,
and heart attacks, how they can happen after cleaning a fish.
I’m told I kept my right eye closed until I was 5,
tried to smoke the cigarettes from my father’s ashtray, told I had to
have been the mailman’s son. I come from blue
who shot for money before church, who said he always confessed,
who told me my real granddad drank himself into a dirt alley
behind a bar on Michigan Ave and died broke in the doorway.
I’ve been to that bar since, the alley’s been paved with concrete.
In my father’s childhood bedroom there’s a stack of Playboys
too faded to be missed. Tell me, can you remember your first time
now that they’re buried beneath the others? If so, have they grown old
since they left you? I come from a cry in the night
that only touches what light cannot. I come from headlights
growing tired inside the dawn. I oversleep inside of dreams
about being better with money, that I’m caught in a current of it.
I was born in a Michigan winter where the rivers froze over.
I’m told I kept my right eye closed until I was 5. When I ask my father
he says it’s because only half of me ever wanted to wake up.
to join the flue, all engaged
without a spark to keep hot Mother’s
The Old Girl
shimmied under the hood every time
I gave her some gas. The way the
whole damn thing would lurch
unnaturally whenever I downshifted.
This was not the time for a failure.
The snow was getting increasingly
fierce. A hail of massive, bluish-white
flakes, backlit by the halogens, waged
war on the old girl. No other drivers
were dumb enough to be on the road.
Conditions had been proclaimed
“undriveable” by the local newsman
hours ago. Still, I had places to be.
So I drove on. About once a minute,
the truck would do something that
would make me involuntarily hold
my breath. Each time, when I realized
what I was doing and corrected it, I
was gasping for what little oxygen
was left in the stale, overheated air
of the cab. Then the bald tires skidded
on the wet, treacherous road. The old
girl went right through the guardrail,
leaving the hood somewhere far behind.
Blue smoke shot from the truck’s guts
in front of the windshield. I heard a
crunch, metal on life, and for the briefest
second, it all went black. Only for a
second, though. Then it was all light.
More than light; white. I looked out through
the now missing windshield, and the
storm had passed. The whole season
had passed. The grass was tall and
green in the ditch. Birds were shouting.
The sun was out, hot and wonderful.
I opened the old girl’s driver’s side
door, and it screamed a rusty protest.
I stepped onto the soft, perfect ground.
I walked to the rumpled front of the
truck. There was a coyote standing there,
inspecting what was left of the bumper.
Our eyes met, and I understood. The
coyote turned tail and began to slowly
amble away. After a second or two, I
followed. Someday, we’ll get to
where we’re going.
For the clouded leopard of Bhutan.
In Himalayan foothills you think
You spot one creeping along a precipice,
Crouching under rhododendrons—
But it’s a rotting log. From tangled brush
The blue-winged thrush laught
That lead to a cold blue lake then vanish.
The scent of monsoon rain rises
From the east. You surrender—
A leopard emerges from the fog-covered
Forest and begins to nuzzle your hands.
The words come gushing out.
rising gently from flat, hay-bricked fields
with rumpled furrows.
I could look at them all day.
they are: gravel, sand, Doug Fir.
They are platted for mud stucco houses
built with the gutted hill’s wood and stone.
Those sinuous curves illuminating
the landscape are sacrificed
when you move in, fill your garages
with lime green Troy mowers, bulbous-wheeled scarlet ATVs
which you will screech up/down the remaining hills
gouging lopsided crop circles
and screaming with joy.
from sacred to raced, shelter to shovelful.
The deepening shadows stroke the hills,
running indigo fingers through the blonde grass.
The stillness is manna—you can eat
but not hoard.
It feeds a deep need.
I have my turquoise Chevy with chromed fins.
I say, when your Chevy
is a thin layer of rust and blue,
let these hills still be caressed by these shadows
softly wearing off
the day’s veneer.
Everyone I know calls it Route 30.
I tried to leave this road behind forty years ago
perfect jeans waited to cover whatever she lacked
what we all lacked and lacked.
Afterwards the reward, dinner at Chick Fil A
an Orange Julius, latest from Mel Brooks.
for a day, fill it with reading and silence.
Indecisive, shopaholic, mirrors
preferably three-way, Mom turning and turning.
But do you really like it?
as if lit by unshaded bulbs.
where Bowles might have shared a glass with Borroughs
on some ornate balcony high above the broad street
funnel into stone lanes that tunnel
in the fall of night. Here the spirits wear djellaba,
Later she will search her skin for the bloom of dirt,
The camera around her neck lists, telephoto lens
drawing it down, into the bayou. Her palms cradle
Homestead country, the ground of father’s father’s farm
sapped of nutrition, crop on crop without fallow
seasons to recharge. The acreage was sold off
piecemeal, to pay bankers, doctors, to satisfy outstanding
debt owed to the funeral man. Susannah sees
the children learn names of rivers as we cross them.
She’s a natural teacher. I lead the horse team
through currents, wondering which instance
will strain the harness, threaten to dash us
on outcroppings, which flow might
bear the team away. It happens,
but showing fear doesn’t make disasters
less likely to swamp the expedition.
Better to join in with education,
such distraction welcome. Limbo lasts
a thousand miles. Susannah, unflappable,
leads the naming, drills the children:
Ohio and Mississippi. The harness
cuts my hands but I can stand it. I say
Colorado River. If I’m scared
my voice shouldn’t show it.
the train track, shiny,
that chases cabooses
that kites freighters
and swims with conductors.
It’s the kind that unpacks your suitcase,
speeding towards you like a freighter,
laughing like a locomotive,
smiling, marveling, at your dream.
The stillness of the wind invites us,
to the lake with its face
round as a dinner plate,
smooth as a cloth-spread table.
Water licks the curved hull
of the Edgewater that cradles us like a spoon
as the motor cuts away from the dock,
and we tuck into the warmth of an aged August sun.
The peanut butter sandwich clutched
in my daughter’s dimpled fingers
vanishes middle first into her mouth,
unsaved by the rolling of the boat
and the gaps where the sharp white of incisors
have yet to press through gum.
Work undone bubbles up,
surfaces as beaded columns of worry,
but the propeller’s blade devours it
and spits it in bits
on the wide, white lanes of wake,
fine shreds sinking to rest
in wait at the bottom of the black
where they will reassemble,
sprout legs, and crawl out dripping,
slinking back to nibble
on these last scraps of summer.
But, the quickening drone of hungry motor
churns out water whipped and whisking behind us.
For now, there’s only the clean glass of lake
to cleave with the point of the prow;
and, my girl, penny bright hair
aflutter and empty mouth thrown open,
caching the wind in the hollow of her cheeks.
Meghan Smith teaches English at a boarding school in Groton, MA where she lives with her husband, spit-fired daughter, and squishable baby boy. She writes poetry and short fiction, and her work has appeared in Mom Egg Review.
while time comes on and throws us under inch-
thick crusts of residue. Slapped on fast, this way and
that, varnish up our weakest points so we can’t see
despite being flush against the panes – we stay
sitting, smoking slowly, refining the crudeness
of our gestures until we pump ourselves outside
hips crackle and spit, and something silver corrugates lips
with not quite words slagged out in heaps.
Reduced to a specimen, a set of samples:
hours kept stock in breathing bowls, broken bones
pile up with kisses, the taste of iron.
My memories clamber under skies,
fuming full of smashed clay pots and the days
when our mouths moved, and music came
enough time to plow furrows of thought.
across those state and county roads,
your wife beside you, hand on her knee.
of engagement, how all week you waited
200 miles and a dozen towns between your bodies.
after leaves turn yellow and red
and cover the garden in a crunchy
blanket, then, in that moment
before the first lasting snow,
I will walk through the grove
one more time with you
sparkling in starlight, cottonwood
branches creaking in the prairie
breeze, and we lie beneath Orion
hunting the Great Bear, our eyes
expecting fiery meteors
to blaze across the sky.
just like the roads around our newly old house—
so suddenly gone! (Not long ago, my parents,
elderly, bewildered, and bankrupt, were led by
officials from our truly old house; farther back,
my father’s house in Kusnice, efficiently de-peopled,
the family cargoed off.) This eerie repetition
We’ve moved west to the bay’s edge. The kids,
the family dog and cats are the company I keep. Outside
our train-narrow warehouse loft, rolling trains bray
then trail off into the lengthening days and nights.
Their sound soothes me. Always someone
arrives and leaves. I had forgotten this.
talking past each other. Our faces
point ahead, not toward or away,
and we stare off at something
to pick out some solitary cloud
or star through the deep blood
shade, the blindfolds
we’ve been given, put on.
You tell me a story, a lady
surrounded, societal tourniquet
stopping her blood flow.
Bunched up in extremities.
She swells at the ends,
always just about to burst. Launch
forward explosive to catch hold
of anything, to be supported
but deny that need
I tell you a story, a boy
driving home one day with the radio
switching between violence, oh-
so-personal, and something that would give
him away, up to his peers. He looks
for earnestness in the motion of lives,
the light touch of a hand on a wheel,
the stomped clutch thrust away,
the smooth throw of the knob,
the long stare to the bend
in the road.
these fragments, these artifacts, in hopes
that we’ll snatch them from the air
between us, and stop for one second
to see each other for the first time
through the veil.
We reach out to press our palms
together, our fingers
different lengths, some beginning just past
where the others end.
imitates the caw of her calico jailed behind it
and sidewalk cinches in the cool of night.
Because we all frame the doorways
through which we walk
from one room of our lives to the next,
she dreams the sky and the ocean’s bottom
are only rumors of endless job sites.
She stirs at electrons’ spiraling
through twelve-gauge copper
if only because wiring her home
makes her believe it.
Crossing gates down, the trains pass between
will cross, agree that the sun is warm,
the air still cool as you pull the weeds
The LED sign announces a southbound train:
The ways of traffic are mysterious: one minute
a green blur punctuated by ancient pillars of sandstone
left by the glaciers, and the next you come to an abrupt
frustration cooking in the sun. And just as mysteriously,
you begin to move again, released into the same speed
between when you refused to look at the clock or calculate
how much later you would arrive where you were going,
you realized that there, in the field that was no longer a blur,
were the gangly forms of sandhill cranes, five of them
bending their long necks to forage or raising their heads
to stare for a moment, not in your direction, but into some
folded into their cells, the routes passed on through generations.
Another mystery, the ways of cranes, their complex
after near extirpation in the late 1800’s. Such academic language
to make their fate a matter for study instead of faith, but the long
At Antelias in the late evening we arrive with our shopping on the slope where the taxis wait. He hails us—my wife and I—eager for passengers, perhaps his last run. We tell him “Ain Aar” and he hustles us in with a big woman in the back. The front passenger seat is left unoccupied.
Another sudden stop—the African gets out and makes a dash for the shop they call the Wooden Bakery. Taxi still stationary, the driver apologizes to us in the rear. It seems he is waiting for him—an extra service?
Five minutes and his passenger comes with a bulging bag—gets back in, takes out a roll, and eats. I think: perhaps he’s done a long day’s work, this is his first food, and the driver pities him.
Setting off again, the taxi zig-zags across the road to the other side weaving in-and-out of head-on cars. I grip the leather seat. “He’s going down the mountain!” my wife remonstrates. “Sorry, sorry” says the driver turning to the three of us in the back—“Sorry.”
We stop—this time for a young man—as though for rendezvous. He squeezes in at the front. The door is squashed shut and—hamdullah*—the taxi heads up again to Rabieh. We hit hairpin bends in this ill-used vehicle; it has evidently given good service. The three men talk and laugh as at a party with rolls handed round and music roaring.
Another sudden stop, another exit; the African makes another dash—now for a pharmacy. We three in the back wait; more of the driver’s sorrys and our patient malesh.** I wonder at the African’s mission. Is he charged with some service? Is he sick? He didn’t seem so. A condom perhaps? Or a medicine with morphine? Dark thoughts, I own.
He’s coming back now, but I don’t know what’s in the packet he’s holding to his chest—and I can’t ask. The woman next to me smiles—a knowing one—but I am perplexed.
My wife hands notes to our merry driver; we get out awkwardly with our parcels. The three men drive on to music, sandwiches, medicine and high spirits. In their shared taxi they pass the open service station on the road up to Bikfaya.
We walk with our parcels down towards the church; it is too late for the service.
* Thank God
** That's okay
each finger with kisses until
you stop me on the ring.
mist on the Mississippi. Subtract the
buildings, the vehicles, the bridges;
add the grass, trees, and erase the
asphalt from under my tires. A
fox graces the river bank.
One light green
swimming through the cornfield
in Mount Marion, my grandfather
at the wheel of the world,
screaming at his wife
huddled in her seat
to Leave me be! My sister
burrowed in a ball on the backseat
floorboards, no seatbelts then,
no airbag to deploy.
Just the tassels falling before them
and the misfired synapses
of the demented driver
in charge as the chassis
left the road.
red interior, convertible.
Nanny's car, its push-button
as she drove us to confession.
We conspired backseat,
making up sins to offer
It would arrive upstate
in late spring carrying
hatboxes and bolts of cloth,
tea, salamis and whiskey
hauled from Brooklyn,
provisions for the summer
months in the country. On the wide
front porch of the Sullivan House,
she'd offer us beer
in tea cups, Pabst Blue Ribbon
to calm our nerves. Or
Irish tea: first the sugar, then milk,
tea bag and hot water last. We'd sip
until time. She'd pull
the black netting over her face;
we'd affix paper doilies
in our modest hair, straighten
my brother's tie, pile into
the leather seats
so unlike the stripped down
station wagon we rattled about in
with our parents. We'd parade
down familiar roads,
arriving at St. John's
with airs. Forgive me Father,
for I have sinned. We'd cross ourselves
and pray penance while Nanny
lit a candle, genuflected,
had a smoke outside, her sins
impervious to a country priest's
ministrations. We'd ride home
forgiven of everything
we could name. She'd bend
just slightly, to kiss
our heads, then send us
up the hill past the green car
of our father's father to our house
with its mysteries, its secrets
passed down to us that
God could never know.
Summer, 1957, Southampton,
they bitched about crooked dealers,
faithless wives, upstart artists
Larry says (or might have)
to John Chamberlain,
I’m going out to pee;
through the tall gray-blue grass,
to the rusted hulk
of a ’29 Ford
at Black Mountain:
use what’s at hand)
So he pulled
off the painted
chromium plated fenders,
got his pickup truck
and ran over them
again and again
bent and dented
and pieced them together
like puzzle pieces, he said,
to make Shortstop
you have to know when to stop.
They came from Carolina northward
of Pennsylvania. They came leaderless
and hungry, waited for creeks to subside.
They came because there was no other
road, and in 1698 or 1712 wept
as the coal burst blackly forth
from the worshipped land.
But the deer were plentiful,
plus dominions of trout,
and heat that brought the corn
up every August. These Tuscororas
from whom we take the name played
football in the park
where we as children did. They
languished as the sun beat down
where the Cape Cods are today,
beat each other blue over timber,
squaws gone to whites
who drank whiskey and gambled.
They made their rituals plans,
their plans rituals, bartering for meat.
We take their name, hound them
hourly in their absence, build hospitals
where they knelt to mark their dead.
We heal each other inside their wounds
in a tilt of oaks called Tuscora Park,
unmindful of blood, the parking lot
pushing against their bones.
The limp string of
three of last night’s
helium filled party hoppers
cling to the curb
the prior night's celebration
just revel in their
"Fuck you, I tried", even
as the indifferent wind
force waltzes them into traffic
blast one last marvel note
across the skyline
beauty all the way down
to the dust
of graffiti and asbestos
drained from defiant high steps
to the face of last night’s
After the stars are gone
at the right distance
Many a heart is aching
against dawn’s flagrant
scream past, reminding
of one’s lack of patience
shuffling home, half ass
racing the light to their
both dirt, until
the right set of lungs
deign to shout them out
Crossing Sunda Strait by Ferry