Thief of Stars

I am

the reflection

of a star

on the dark glass

of the river

just before dawn

breaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Market

When I look over my shoulder

to change lanes on

the Leo Frigo bridge

high above the bay, I see her 

reaching over to smooth his long hair –

my son’s girlfriend –

and it’s as though he’s been

cracked open and I’ve seen

his heart beating

for the first time.

It’s crowded, so 

we park far

from the market grounds

this muggy August night

and we take our time on the

uneven sidewalks, overgrown by

late summer weeds.

Neighborhood kids on Big Wheels or bikes

circle elderly men on canes,

dodge parents carrying chairs and coolers

in the slowly fading light.

They walk behind me, holding hands –

her hands are cold, she says,

and holds them up to his heart.

The waffled orange plastic fence

runs between Titletown Brewery

and the Fox river that flows north,

parallel to the railroad tracks where

uneven piles of fresh gravel and asphalt wait patiently

for the future coming through –

we pick our way past the recycle bin

and a family struggling with a wagon.

I give my charges $10 and set them free.

On the periphery,

the hot air balloons groggily lift their outsize heads

as though waking from a late-afternoon nap

they don’t recall taking.

Their narrow necks fill with heartburn and fire and

soon a sentinel of them line the riverfront,

alternating light and dark against the purple sky.

Though it is late, I feel reckless –

I buy cold brew coffee

from a couple in a pull-behind trailer,

white trimmed in teal. Benjamin Brewer.

I pay $1 to pet a white puppy

from Lucky 7 Dog rescue.

I take a card.

I run into my cousin who’s just gotten a text from my aunt:

“We’re by the pole dancers.” Sure enough,

they are.

Her brother is wearing a hat

like one that I imagine Fitzgerald wore

to write about Daisy –

he punches out staccato poems on the spot

on an old typewriter

for young women in pairs,

for families with kids,

all standing in line and waiting for

enlightenment.

His chalkboard signs says:

Poems. Any topic.  While you wait. Pay whatever.

I wave at him and smile

but he is hunched over his work, and

I keep walking.

The hot air balloons

that have been taking Midwestern turns

lighting up, one after another,

slowly topple sideways,

darken,

deflate.

Silhouette people

wait to fold them,

tuck them onto trailers,

and drive them away in darkness.

I walk under the lights

strung over the picnic tables

to listen to the band all the way from Portland-

a marching band

drenched in New Orleans voodoo and

blended with Village People who do Cross Fit,

who make their own t-shirts,

who maybe practice polyamory.

They are jubilant,

they have trumpets, drums, a slide trombone,

hula hoops.

I buy a t-shirt I don’t need.

My son and his girlfriend

reappear,

and the music

fades

and then grows again

as we walk backward through the vendors to the the exit

(“Everlasting Romance”! Henna! Goat Milk Soap!)

then back up the street.

Along the old Larsen cannery

under the streetlights,

weeds grow wild and tall

between the sidewalk and wall,

and I say they are impressive,

ambitious,

and she says she’s never heard weeds

described that way, and so I say

they are profligate,

desperate,

ambidextrous,

hopeful,

senescent,

weedy.

You should write a poem about that,

my son says. But

I am not thinking

of adjectives for weeds,

I am picking my way

through the darkness and

watching the way that

people move about in their houses

lit by TVs and kitchen sink lights and soft table lamps –

I am thinking that

this night

is a window lit

for a brief moment,

and that years and years from now

I will walk past it in the darkness

and see

what was

inside.

At the Nick Offerman Book Reading Event In Milwaukee

 

There is a man built like a hay bale in the row in front of me,

a blue flannel shirt, he comes in alone, jams his long legs

behind the seat in front of him, and

much like a bale of hay, he speaks to no one

but stays hours and hours to have

Mr. Offerman, Ron Swanson himself, sign his book

As the crowd dwindles slowly;

My daughter and I watch the girl with blue hair and

A white bow in it who has snuck down to have her book signed

ahead of her assigned row in the balcony; we are Midwestern,

we bear the injustice stoically;

We talk to the couple next to us,

A teacher from Johnson Creek and her husband,

The kids behind at grandma’s, they are reveling in their

Night out and late dinner, yawning and drinking Red Bull

And I am doing the math, about 10 signing seconds

per fan; there are more than 100 people left when equity breaks down

and many of those seated behind us who have moved down

are called ahead of us, and despite

Having spent two hours waiting already,

The cost-ratio benefit falters, and we head for pajamas and sleep –

Bidding our new friends goodbye and

Godspeed;

The man in the blue plaid shirt

Standing stoically in the place he has taken,

holding his book in his arm like a talisman

warding off foolishness, loneliness, youth,

no one pulling him toward a warm bed,

only the wind across the unbroken spring field

will welcome him home hours from now.

Dark Rides

Dark spreads like blood pooling beneath the bruised skin, but warm –

Or as though the earth is an eye, lids closing slowly and shadowing inward,

And in this swelling night, in this place slowly cooling to the touch,

The air compressor blasts and growls, channeling breath into the long-resting tires,

So they may ride a little longer, though they hiss and squeal;

Cacti stand vigil in the Arizona landscaped yards, or recline passive,

Rows of inanimate thorny paddles, Mickey Mouse ears, teardrops;

From the lawn chair she hears the crickets counting time in the purpling air,

Asphalt throws the heat of the day back into the moonlit sky,

caught now and then by the smooth belly of a lizard;

All curtains drawn, all garage doors shut like tombs but this one,

the night gathers in the folds of the driveway apron, but I take one of the bikes

and my middle aged self, and ride down the middle of the smooth, deserted road, the moon enough –

Turning, watching the ranch houses with their windowed eyes shut tight,

Not a breath to fog the mirror on the handlebars,

Not a penny to hold fast the eyes;

I ride on borrowed air, slowly, weaving life into the still night,

Standing on the pedals, saving the old-lady cushioned seat, grudging bouncy tires slow and thoughtful,

Thinking about nothing, thinking about riding on though I know I will turn back into that driveway,

will swing one leg over the bike and stand on one pedal before jumping off,

will check again the skittering pulse of the night,

will smooth the sheet of wan moonlight across her lap,

will turn the fevered wind into a deep breath

while the night’s black fingers crawl westerly across the Rocky mountains,

bleeding dark across the vast and deep Pacific ocean,

racing around again before long toward the Midwest

and our empty beds.