Good Fences

Cade’s Cove, Tennessee

Good fences

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

He said, but something there is that craves one, too,

That sends a human groundswell, spills the water

Left for nomads in the sun.  Malicious elves, you say,

But that’s not it exactly, more like the kind of man

Who’d leave a bag of rattlesnakes on the front step

To keep anyone from coming in,

Or train coyotes how to circle on command.

Oh, I think he knows what he is walling in and walling out,

The old stone savage that he is, the apples

And the pine cones have nothing to do with it,

Just another form of taking for yourself

That which has been taken time and time again.

To Winter and Back Again

Miami River, Hamilton, Ohio

The sparrows and the martins—

Fly back and forth–to spring

They feel no icy footprint–

Or any unwelcome thing

If any leaf–turns less than green–

They turn their eyes away–

They must have color–in the view

They loathe the white and gray–

My heart’s a different traveler

That tends to fly–alone–

Seeking cool reception in

Less comfortable–zones

Brightness fools it into feeling–

a lonely thing to say–

Turn off the green–turn off the blue–

And then–it finds its way.

You can’t be like a martin

If you have–a human Soul

There is no way to travel–

With a heart–so light–and full

The sparrow rises in the air–

Her Song a holy office–

The human heart–only hears

The cracking sound–of ice

We dream of winds that lift our wings

To heaven, until–but then—

December comes, and takes our Soul

To winter and back again

Suburban White Women

Dog Beach, Huntington Beach, California

Torrey was confused. As she stood with her husband in the line at The Home Depot where they were buying paint samples so that they could decide whether they wanted to paint the bathroom Dove White, Eggshell, or Capistrano Cream, she noticed the slight change his his posture, which she noticed from time to time, if she touched him in the right way, if she bit his ear, the little things that she as a wife knew made him slightly aroused, or when Dena came over to the house, because she was gorgeous and Torrey really couldn’t even blame Josh. But she had never noticed it before with a, well, she couldn’t even say it in her mind. She would not allow herself to admit it or say it. She was not racist. The cashier was just a girl smacking her gum and looking blankly towards the tool department while she tore the receipt and handed it to him without eye contact. She gave a fake smile when Josh told her not too work to hard now and just then Torrey noticed that she had been touching him, hip to hip, and she pulled away, but they were walking away now with their blue plastic bag of canned-vegetable sized paint sample cans. Sometimes just leaning into him did it, she had noticed before, but by now they were walking back to the Pathfinder and it was too late to know for sure if it was the check out girl or Torrey’s hip that made him this way.

When they got in the car she said, “Josh, did you think that girl was pretty?” He practically snorted at the question. It seemed to Torrey that it was a little forced. 

“Don’t be stupid.” 

She hated when he said that. “It’s not stupid. Don’t speak to me that way.”

“I’m sorry, honey. No, I did not find her attractive.” He said it emphatically, slowly, as if to repeat that he thought the question was stupid. But she knew he had a black girlfriend in college. She was a lawyer now in Atlanta.  She was on Facebook.  That was how she knew Josh was not racist. Sometimes people would say if you liked the president you were racist but she knew that Josh wasn’t because he dated her in college. It was stupid to say they were racist and it made her angry when someone said it. They had talked about it at church and it made her feel better.

He had promised her lunch. “Do you want Desi’s or the Diner?” She shrugged.  He drove to Desi’s. There was a short wait. She leaned on him and he held her while he leaned against the wall by the door. She was tired. She felt herself beginning to weaken but she locked her knees.  A few more minutes and she would have her mimosa. Or maybe she would get that thing with the mint leaves. She couldn’t remember the name of it. “Are you feeling ok?” he asked. She shrugged. “Do you want to go home?” She shook her head no. 

The hostess said, “Morales”, and she started to move when she heard the “m” come out of her mouth, thinking it would be their turn. Then she wanted to see who the “Morales” were.  It was an older couple.

When it was their turn, the hostess walked them to their table at the far end of the restaurant by garage door openings that looked out onto the street where it was raining now.  Josh read his menu but Torrey didn’t need to. She sipped her water and looked out the garage door windows. The streets were wet now and the tires were making the whooshing noise on the street. She was trying not to listen to the conversation at the next table about the immigration raids at the chicken plant in Morton. “As long as they come here legally,” someone was saying.  He said “legally” like a child would say please, almost like he was begging. Emphasis on the “le”.  He wasn’t racist. He just wanted it all to be legal. All she could think about was the idea of a factory where they did whatever they did to chickens to make the chicken meat that people eat. It revulsed her. She didn’t want to think about it.

Their server was a young man. She was grateful. His hair was short on the sides and spikey on the top.  She tried to think what it was like. It was like a tossed salad or a bouquet of flowers bouncing around on his head. She liked it.  Was he black? She wasn’t sure. The owners were Cuban. He had a Spanish name that she couldn’t pronounce. He had big teeth and a big smile.  He was friendly and he actually looked them in the eye unlike the hostess or the cashier at The Home Depot in her orange smock. She ordered a mimosa but Josh said “Go light on the champagne, please.” The server looked at her as though for permission and she just turned her head back to the street, ashamed. “Yes, sir, coming right up” the server said. Just then she needed to get away from her husband.

“I am going to the restroom.” She stood up too quickly, maybe, and the room began to spin. There was a piercing noise like a long tone that got louder each moment until it was unbearable. The edges of her sight got fuzzy and then black.  She saw the girl in the orange smock in her mind and the Pathfinder and the wet street getting louder and louder and louder.  She was sweating and then the world came back to her. Her head hurt. She was looking at Josh who was saying her name. “Are you ok?” She nodded.  “Just rest for second,” Josh said.

She was suddenly aware that a crowd of people were around her and she was on the floor. “It’s ok,” Josh said, “She’ll be ok. She’s pregnant. Don’t call 911. It’s ok, really.”  Her dress felt soaking wet with sweat and she was suddenly embarrassed and felt the need to apologize. “I’m sorry,” she said. Josh was trying not to cry.  “Can you stand up? Let me take you home.” The server helped Josh pick her up from the floor.  He was tender and gentle. She attempted a smile. Josh handed the server a twenty but he said, “don’t worry about it, we didn’t even make the drinks yet. Come back another time, ok?” Josh put his arm around her waist and they walked back to the car.  He leaned her seat back, went to the driver’s side, started the car and backed out. The sun was coming back out around the clouds and the brightness against the shade on the sunroof relaxed her.  She was coming back to life.  She had stopped sweating and the air conditioning felt cold on her skin.  She turned her head to Josh as he drove down Fortification Street.

“Can we try the Eggshell first?”