January Towns

Our bodies are winter clay and we travel
in not-quite-evening—the hour of about-
to-turn, of mistaking a man who owns

the same coat for you. Are you wearing
a red hat? Are someone’s arms open
beneath you, her blue apron, her hands

in the air that say jump? And the snow
always falling here, always getting swept up.
What number night voyager are you?

There are others: a small girl straddling
a hefty branch, a boy that gazes
at a white-caked statue for luck,

a couple in gray shackled at the ankle—
he eats an apple or speaks into his
cupped hand as if he’s on an invisible

CB radio. Breaker 1-9. Breaker 1-9.
He tries to pinpoint his location,
but even the pine trees are jet white.

There is a car skidded off the road
with luggage strapped to the roof.
Further back, a pot, a lost shoe,

a hunk of unwrapped Christmas gifts.
We are travelers at dusk in the hallelujah
snow. There is a lone dog humping forward,

a woman with her back to a tree. Maybe
she is me. A couple pushes a house on wheels
through a blizzard. The house tilts

and perhaps it is metaphorical. Perhaps
it is literal. Men in coveralls excavate a well
and a girl rides the train of her own red dress

back up out of its tunnel. Sometimes the light
above the clouds winks out a full-size replica
of our lives. We are crystals of frozen water;

we are hoarfrost situated in the heart of
convenience-store neon, smudged to jeweled
precautions through condensed glass. Home
is the coldest surface where we park our house.


And the mornings were detritus,
bent bottle caps, chrome diner matchbooks,

always the pack of playing cards in cellophane
with the tab half-pulled, and the unearthed voice

of the drive-thru pricked by shined key chains
jangling like tire irons. And the nights were detritus,

expired gas station receipts, mall vapors, a half-used
tin of tattoo salve, all of Bayonne, New Jersey

mapped on your back in chalk. The moon was detritus,
a pick-up dodging the curb trailing nail clippings,

onion skins, translucent stars, five beat-down Nikes
that wound up phone-pole hopping in Ditmas.

And you were the detritus of magnifying glasses,
half-done lanyards, award ribbons fluttering

like condom wrappers at the shore, the wreckage
of contour lines, a hand-tooled leather souvenir

from a red rock abyss. The scent of your drawer
was fresh rubber and guitar picks, the metallurgy

of scattered loose change and blood. Your bed
wore charcoal detritus, lip-gloss and pot-dust,

ill-fitted sheets. And the detritus the July heat let loose:
gnawed Bic pen caps, a glowing Duncan Hines yo-yo

tangled in dead 9-volt connectors and envelopes
whose lips sealed shut from humidity that swelled

the windows into their frames. If you had scrawled
something on the inside of my wrist back then

it might have been a Venn diagram: your contented breath,
six glove-box necessities, the muffled places detritus would take us.

Copyright the author(s) ©2007–2014