Saturday, December 11, 2010

Westward, After Graduation

I left Isaac's rosary on the kitchen counter (because it never did help me with calculus),
fed the cats with elven faces, did 2 parts of a crossword puzzle, and left
the house I thought I was too old to miss and too young to burn down
with the rain-beaten shingles like an Easter crown, and the porch
still grinning with geraniums and mint; bright as a wet floor and scorched by cigarettes.
I brought my East Coast novels to dusty Wyoming, and lived like Faust for a while-
my suitcase swelled with dead paper until the unused laughter tumbled up like bile.
I burned paper but the wind caught the fire, and a half-forest fell for my garish lust for change;
after that, I tried to smile at everything. My teeth sun-bathed, and I dragged
a spoiled blanket through the dust, turning its quilt squares ripe and rotten. I slept
in hot apartments, waiting for someone to catch me, and fled again.
In arid Nevada, I saw bone sculptures, ate late-night-diner condiments for breakfast,
and, trailing ash on the checkerboard tiles, I sat at the bar and thought of Isaac,
whose red-and-white necklace laced his fingers in a nervous habit
& whose bloody noses needed sheets of black and navy.
I cried all the way to the bus station, bought a straight-arrow ticket for bleeding New Mexico,
where I thought the sun would be made of bone. I scuttled through the grain and arenose pebbles,
saw the highway lanes that growled at the shanties underneath,
and met a man who saw my legs as glossy hinges. For him, my heart fell underwater,
and I somehow thought of Stella, who ate paper when pregnant, and the Mexican boy with skulls
on his hands, the fingertips that rotted in my sister's refrigerator, the darling in Mesa,
Isaac with his typewriter on the bus, while all around us was, What's that noise? &, what's that noise?
The bite of clacking metal called to mind that somewhere, it was snowing on the rotting geraniums
painting the world a soft ivory and quiet, quiet like a secret kept deep in your chest,
where winter was more than a bone-dry log
and a shopping mall crouching by the freeway. I got a job as a seedy hotel maid,
watched my palm lines shift, watched the Water Street whores
stalk past the post office on kingfisher legs. They eyed me while I bought stamp sheets
& I wrote letters to bureaucracies with stiff hands; I spat tobacco juice and cut my ragged bangs.
I met people who ascribed their lives to four-word mottos,
people with strong handshakes and tongues thick with lies,
people who kept snakes, made films, sold their flesh for less than water,
While I became less a friend or a daughter,
and more a dusty ghost with a pale, anemic frame. And Isaac, I think,
forgot me, quit the skies and the Holy word
for a girl and a golden retriever. In ten years, he'll be a father,
smash his van on a fast, rain-slick curve, and I'll go back East. I'll say some words & I'll
touch some hands, but tell no one where I'd been going. I will rest
in the bed of some high school friend, clutch the curtains, wonder of what I can steal or keep;
it will snow, and I will listen to the ghosts below me sleep.

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