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“I migrate a lot from state to state,
you know?” she said, thumbing tape
to a wall affixing a calendar
of stock photos
of tulips and Mount Rainier
and sunny landscapes in January.
eyes fixed to her work, her nape
smelled of cigarettes and
Garnier Fructis, with glued-on
fingernails coated cerise—
the kind, i wondered, would
preclude wiping one’s own ass—
when the memory intruded
through the door;
sister wearing fake nails came crying
in my room; an expired lease
and attempted rape and gratitude
when she borrowed the bed to hide
and i, beneath sleep’s skin,
allowed several maudlin minutes
to skim across the scurf,
dreaming in an empty bathtub
how redolent of
waylaid flights and layovers
most events are to destinations unknown.
in those reveries, below flew by
rooted trees and black mulch and
murky rivers between serrated hills
and the languid lake pandiculating,
its paunch heavy from devouring
so many rowboats that came
afloat mum in the night,
22 years ago, out of earshot of
mortars and soldiers into Croatia;
or those discovered asleep in trunks
as cars tiptoed across the border,
like a father in ruth,
deserting his degree, the army,
his siblings, his land,
the hand on his shoulder
dribbling sooth onto his clothing:
he was no less a tartuffe
for his children’s unorthodox
names. What reason was left for
2-hour lines to trade a VCR for
a bag of flour weighted with salt, or
2 eggs laid by greedy hens, or
cowering misers
redrawing their home's borders
using the cracks in the concrete,
when your kids stood eyeing
the jackknife cut a Hershey’s square
into even halves and hugged
their soup bowls as property?
Had only the station been open,
arriving in Florida on Thanksgiving,
sick from the heat.
Were only the help desk open
to print the round trip ticket
for New York a year later.
If only someone had taped
a calendar to count the days
in the Banyan Tree motel,
where the daughter nearly fell
and drowned in a lake and son
woke in spells from dreams of
playful red dots and windows
and bathtubs and shells
and the caramel he stole
from the grocery store, as well,
until decades later in New England
he stuffed a Werther’s in his mouth
and tasted stations on Thanksgiving day,
the sidewalks in Christmas movies,
mint and Hershey kisses,
and steaming bathtubs,
and—well, i know what the wrapper says,
but it’s i-don’t-know-what.
she turned to me and laughed,
placing her glued nails to my shoulder
when i told her how filling my lunch is
and which food is good for traveling;
“Where are you from?” she asked,
“I grew up in Florida; I can relate,"
i smiled, later walking to my car,
passing by replanted nard
bombarding the lot under
cloudy backdrop and foggy Cascades
and rootless evergreens,
feet tucked neatly beneath repaved sidewalks.

6 Jan 18

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