Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Steve De France

High Drifting Alarm

The train sways unsteadily, and
rolls over yet another high-stilted trestle.
Couplings clang,whistles blow as
my nervous stomach does a swan dive
splashing into a silver string of boiling water
a mile or so below.

Out my iron-windowed compartment
Northern landscape. Trees & water.
Water everywhere.
Not like the desert of L.A. at all.
Not like the harbor freeway.
Not full of frightened eyes rushing from work.
No, just trees. So many trees I feel dwarfed,
drowning in these encroaching trees.

Above the trees, hunched clouds
full of rain scrape their sexual bellies
across the green canopy of treetops.
a patch of sunlight. a sudden furrowed
field—a man in coveralls, a jaunty
straw hat & a bright orange
bandanna tied round his neck,
as he sits on a yellow tractor.

Wiping his brow, he stops to watch the
train. We see each other. He tips his
hat, By reflex, I open my hand in salute.
We connect.
We watch each other out of sight
until he's just a distant color
pressed into the impression of a landscape.

And in this moment, I wish to be him.

To fade away, fade faraway
atop his tractor, plowing
this field. I need to take up his life.
Snake-like I want to shuffle
off my dead skin, leave my dry life,
and discard my city dirt.

I could see in his eyes
or maybe I imagined it—he wished
he was the haunted one—sitting on the
train—unshaved & speeding South.

Watching his dot of color
fade & disappear, I think of
the many people staring
right now at someone else,
wishing it were possible
to become them.
needing to leave everything—all of it
behind. To just check out.
To go forever missing—
to give up on the harshness
give up on the pain
give up on the incertitude of breath
give up on the fear of eternal night
give up on a world grinding off its own flesh.

yes and again yes...

To live a new life as someone else,
someone without these damn darkling thoughts.

Unexpectedly, the train whistle
shrills—calling me back to myself
from far across Seattle Sound
and my train rushes forward—windows
on fire with the reflected sun.

Should I Simply Say

The deceiver, deceived.
The lie a web, catching the liar.

I want to believe this.

But shit, I don't believe much today.
In purple splintered sunset, I walk this beach.
And wonder if I should
call a girlfriend; tell her
I'm sleeping in public toilets,
next to the ocean, where derelicts roam.

Would she believe
I didn't know a touch
would blind me like Oedipus.
Or a breath would condemn me
like the Greek to wander alone.
And that the desert would be in my head?

When all the time, I only wanted
the taste of her mouth,
needed the smell of her body.

But her eyes so bright
blinded me. And she cried,
"Love's hurting me.
Too much pain."
And then,
the wind stirred, the curtain fluttered,
and the moon shone on her breasts.
she walked across my empty room.
Somewhere a door closed.

Or should I say,
sometimes, before sleep,
I lie still trying
to see her face.
Feel her warmth.

As outside on the street,
a car door slams.
A woman laughs, then shrieks.
And later, as the street grows quiet again,
the night settles in and curls into my room
like a street cat.

Strange. As I write this
I can't remember
what her face looks like.
There are no images now.
Nothing's left.

I find no rest in any thoughts.
My ideas still skip and try to
dodge the truth of her.

I never knew her angers,
she didn't know them either.
And when we were together,
she couldn't tell me.
I regret that.

Where is she now?
Who is the new man?
Does she lie down in quiet nights
to sleep next to this man?

Does she put her leg between his,
and bury her face in his chest?
And then, just as she tries to let go
and really love someone,
will she be unable to remember
his name?
Won't be able to recall it?
Or recollect just how to say it?

Just can't.
Just won't.

And as she turns her head away
on the cold pillow,
the man next to her won't matter.
Not at all.
should I simply say
the moon shone on her breasts?

©2010 by Steve De France

Steve De France, MFA, has traveled widely in the United States. On more than one occasion he hitch-hiked across America. He rode rails on freight trains, worked as a laborer with pick-up gangs in Arizona, dug swimming pools in Texas, did 33 days in the Pecos city jail as a vagrant, fought bulls in Mexico, and dove for salvage off a small island on the coast of Mazatlan. His poetry has been published in most of the English speaking countries of the world. Recently his work can be seen in The Evergreen Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Sun, Rattle, Why Vandalism, as well as others. He has won writing awards in England and in the United States. He was recently nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. He continues to write poetry, plays, essays, and short stories.

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