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late night tv

dorianne laux

Again the insomnia of August,
a night sky buffed by the heat,
the air so still a ringing phone
three blocks away sings
through the fanís slow moving blades.
The sleeping cat at the foot of the bed
twitches in a pool of dusty sheets,
her fur malt-colored, electric.

Time to rub the shoulderís tight knots out
with a thumb, flip on the TV, watch a man
douse a white blouse with ink before dipping
that sad sleeve into a clear bucket.

What cup of love poured him into this world?
Did his mother touch her lips
to his womb-battered crown
and inhale his scent?
Did his new father lift him and name him?
He was fed, clothed, taught to talk.
Someone must have picked him up
each time he wobbled and fell.
There might have been a desk, a history book,
pencils in a box, a succession
of wheeled toys.

By what back road did he travel
to this late night station?
By what imperceptible set of circumstances
did he arrive in my bedroom on a summer night,
pinching a shirt collar between his fingers,
his own invention locked in a blue box,
a rainbow slashed across it?

Somewhere in the universe is a palace
where each of us is imprinted with a map,
the one path seared into the circuits of our brains.
It signals us to turn left at the green light,
right at the dead tree.

We know nothing about how it all works,
how we end up in one bed or another,
speak one language instead of the others,
what heat draws us to our lifeís work
or keeps us from a dream until itís nothing
but a blister we scratch in our sleep.

His voice is soothing, his teeth crooked,
his arms strong and smooth below rolled-up cuffs.
I have the power to make him disappear
with one touch, though if I do the darkness
will swallow me, drown me.

Time to settle back against the pillows
and gaze deeply into the excitement
welling in his eyes. Itís a miracle, he whispers
as the burnt moon slips across the sky.
Then he dumps the grainy crystals in
and stirs the water with a wooden spoon.

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learning to drive

dorianne laux

The long miles down the back road
I learned to drive on. The boy riding
shotgun. His hand on my hand on

the gear shift knob, our eyes locked
on the dusty windshield, the cracked
asphalt, old airstrip, the nothing spreading

for miles: scrub brush, heat waves, sky,
a few thin contrails. His patience
endless. My clumsiness: the grinding

gears, the fumbled clutch. The wrench
of it popped like an arm from its socket,
his blue, beloved 57 Ford lurching

into the dirt. I was 16, he was older,
his football-player shoulders muscular,
wide. Where did he get his kindness?

Why spend it on a girl like me: skinny,
serious, her nails bitten, her legs
bruised. Hours under summerís

relentless heat, his car stumbling
across the barren lot until I got it,
understood how to lift my left foot,

my right hand, in tandem, like dancing,
which I never learned to do, never wanted
to turn circles on the polished floor

of a dark auditorium, the bleachers
hemming me in. I drove toward the horizon,
gravel jitterbugging under his tires. Lizards

skittering. Jays rising to the buzz
of telephone wires. He taught me
how to handle a car, how to downshift

into second, peel out from a dead stop.
His hand hung from the open window,
fingers clamped on a lit cigarette,

dragging smoke. We couldnít guess
where we were going. He didnít know
he was flying to Vietnam

and I was on my way out of there,
The Byrds singing Eight Miles High
when he turned off the radio

and told me to break, opened his door
and slid out to stand on the desert road,
let me go it alone, His back pressed

against all that emptiness.

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dorianne laux

Itís tough being a guy, having to be gruff
and buff, the strong silent type, having to laugh
it off-- pain, loss, sorrow, betrayal-- or leave in a huff
and say No big deal, take a ride, listen to enough
loud rock-n-roll that it scours out your head, if
not your heart. Or to be called a fag or a poof
when you love something or someone, scuffing
a shoe across the floor, hiding a smile in a muffler
pulled up nose high, an eyebrow raised for the word quaff
used in casual conversation-- wine, air, oil change at the Jiffy
Lube-- gulping it down, a joke no one gets. Itís rough,
yes, the tie around the neck, the starched white cuffs
too long, too short, frayed, frilled, rolled up. The self
isnít an easy quest for a beast with balls, a cock, proof
of something difficult to define or defend. Chief or chef,
thief or roofer, serf or sheriff, feet on the earth or aloof.
Son, brother, husband, lover, father, they are different
from us, except when they fall or stand alone on a wharf.

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Anno 8, Numero 34
December 2011




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