The mind returns to one of five
or seven frequencies, like stations preset.
As the hood mirrors the summer sunset
and the power lines arching in step
through glass so clean it disappears,
I think of you, now, in a file drawer
with my other little failures.
Block on block of pre-tract houses slide away;
black on black, merging in the rear-view.
Sprinklers water lawns as fathers grope for weeds
or words and sons roar away raising hell.
Mothers are not figured in this equation.
The engine hums, the oleanders sway,
and the scent is overpowering.
This midwinter heat wave forces open the windows.
Little girls compete in screaming
under bare elms fingering the last faint magenta
on the crabgrass growing damp with dew.
Distant cheers erupt in the stadium
(there, where you see the silver glow)
when the home team makes the conversion.
Rummaging through the bureau,
you find those wire-rimmed glasses
you save year after year. For what
The chance your eyes improve?
The license plate colors have changed again.
A man bolts the new ones to his car
in front of a house gutted by fire.
This makes you think of quitting.
But what's one more but,
when you add up all the ands and ifs?
You fear death but long for sleep
like everyone else. Of course.
One is known, the other isn't.
Either way, you're falling.
The shutters do not shut.
The sun's declension makes fuzzy shadows of utility poles
climb the otherwise bare walls.
Standpipes, like Easter Island figures on their angled ground,
catch the last rays below shredded cirrostratus
blowing smoke rings toward a higher altitude.
This is my first two-story.
The view is unlike my others.
Darkness only falls as far as the carbon-vapor arc lamps
goosenecking over the narrow streets to protect the innocent,
but failing. Children dart from between parked cars
while their parents beat the dogs that keep me up at night.
This is my last true story,
now that I see the point of deception.
The sky is brown with smoke and the rising sun is red.
I know instinctively how long the driers take,
and step from car to gutter, where the arid wind
blows dust and ash around the anxious sparrows.
The shirts crackle and wave their arms while I hang them.
I see everything twice. More or less.
The bathroom mirror is crazed with age,
and there I am, talking to myself in the morning sun,
overexposed, all detail lost in the glare.
We cautiously walk through our years
as though barefoot and avoiding broken glass
shattered on the kitchen floor,
our ordered lives at least as fragile.
I desperately hope that time
will accept my lame excuses for all my little failures
in consideration of all the good I’ve done.
Surely, God or no god, there must be some accounting.
Deux ex machina
I see everything twice; that’s the catch:
my curse, stemming from the order of my birth.
Last light limns the fence slats in gold
while I wait, hoping you reconsider your position.
The rose in the sky dwindles, reflected in the perfect finish of the hood.
Blue neon flickers to life under the steeple of the corner church--
“JESUS SAVES.” Saves whom? I’d like to know.
You, lost daughter? Surely not me.
The lemon-twist moon is framed in the double-paned window
above my overlapped reflections.
You can tell what’s inside and what’s outside
by the ghost beside the image, or its absence.
for Leigh Scott
The moon puckers for a kiss as a tiny needle
pulling a white thread up from the horizon aims at its eye.
This is the dry season; stars prick the cirrostratus.
Inside, a frond opens in the silver light.
My daughter's brassy hair follows the pillow's curves,
her hands flung over her head as if in surprise,
her face calm as the sky tonight.
She wakes a moment and smiles at me, then drifts away
like a bather in the Great Salt Lake.
Down on the patio, the coals still glow in the barbecue
where I warm my hands and stare into infinity.
She is all that holds me to this patch of earth.