Various and Sundry Poetry

remembering the words

Dormant in the change-holder under the dashboard: a poem about
the long drive through northwest Texas, and something about how running
out of gas before Childress made us each woozy with a different longing -
to be saved or even further left behind. There are a dozen
gum wrappers under the footrest rug, and who knows what
in the back crack of the backseat cushion, and I have been waiting for them
to unwrinkle themselves and free the narratives stuck inside. Has it been
a year since I curled up out of the rain with a pen and the edgeless stretch
of midnight? How many inches have the boys grown since I lit the match
and held it ’til the paper exploded in fire? That window looking over Duncan St. -
that used to be the only thing I needed. Well, that and maybe a little
sadness, or the gluttony of fresh love, and the arrow beam of streetlights on my hands
as they moved - crackling in the flames - across new lines. Now, the traffic
goes too fast down Dodd, or a funeral procession turns the town to a molasses trickle,
but either way, there’s dust everywhere I look, stanzas cobwebbed behind
the Shoprite daily specials and the strange rituals of deep suburbia, the neighbor
flaunting his allegiance only to certain football teams, the library’s knitting hour,
the weekly paper zooming in on the family with three Eagle scouts, but suddenly,
in this last thrust of summer, a single leaf of basil pinches me awake, and the itch,
bowlegged as a foal, returns to fingers chapped from clutching the wheel so hard,
and I am, all at once, remembering the words, and that window, and that streetlight,
remembering that woman stretching into a long San Francisco night, eyes
wide open and so certain of themselves, and her hands folding around the wick
as new syllables, one by one, erupt from the dark.