You have a single chance
to speak honestly
and may not wish to.
The concierge attends
as patiently to the telephone
as you, in your finest
dreams of service,
had imagined. People
begin to yell in a field
of people, you notice
the day has grown dim
as an ancient hymnal,
each idea perpetual
or free. Well,
here we are
around your fire,
listening to our stories
as we pass into them.
For what else is there?
What was immortal
deepens as it recedes.
In the end, we’re all
alone anyway. Thank god.
This is what I know. Of twenty automobiles, the stranger chose the oldest.
Something in him, a funnel or a hole he wished to make external,
something to douse with citrus-colored dye. “It’d take an orchard
to nest all my roostlings,” he might have said to the girl
riding beside him in the van across the scrubby basin.
In other towns
he’d high-stepped at the head of a column of clowns
and played castanets that clicked and popped
like firecrackers in the cab of a van.
It is a night for departure,
the desert draws it slowly down like a lover.
I don’t know love
from a box of matches, forgive me, I can’t tell you
if one or the other sparks the pretty explosion
that helps the van to roll from the road like an orange.
Of the two people inside, one will already be dead
when the young man from the city who watches the accident happen,
who is merely astonished at the grace with which the van
achieves separation from the road,
achieves separation from the earth
in its new orange outfit, when the young man humming along
in the car he stole this morning remembers
that he should stop, and stops,
and backs up to the wreck he’s driven past.
Forget for a moment that the young man, my father, is useless, unable
even to switch a busted tire,
the sort of punk who steals his neighbor’s car, only to turn himself in
just the other side of the state line. At least he stopped.
Glancing into the driver’s side cab, he pukes on his own shoes.
He hasn’t even seen the girl. She’s behind the van.
She can’t find her earring. When she touches the side of her head
it makes a spout of blood. Before he passes out,
He hears her stumbling,
spilling over the dirt like a bottle of wine.