Singular

 
Scan by scan, he returns
to water, his glassy gaze
sliding smooth as a wave.
At puzzles of colors, he pauses,
twisting a quick focus:
black wings, white stripe,

a gold eye
and more sheering in.
He sucks a whistled breath
through gray-shot hair, then aims
half-eyed to finish,
with a licked scratch, his list.

In darkness, he sees them still
and eases back as the tide
bellies full, both hands
steering a white cup steady,
firelight rowing slow wings
across his drowsy eye:

flicker, flare and lap,
the winter birds
riddle the depth they share.
When clouds mass and waves leave
mudflats, rain ticks like shot.
One springs into flight,

a speck
against the gray, then gone. 
He tilts his glass to ground, half-
sure as he settles. He waits
on the sky for the news
into which the clear eye stares.
 

— Originally published in A Mouthpiece of Thumbs (Blue Begonia Press, 2000)   

 

 

 

 Report from America Auténticos

after James Wright

  
Just off the highway to Tacoma, my friend and I
stop for gas in North Bend.
While he buys sweet rolls wrapped in cellophane,
I use the restroom. On the metal frame
above the stall door, I read
nigger/mexican bar. Because I’m as white
as the man who wrote it, it takes a few seconds
before I see the rope

around a dark neck. Jesus, I think,
the seat a frigid halo against my cheeks. I’m afraid
the clerk will shrug, as if this is another joke
is in your hand. I’m afraid she’ll see my friend
licking sugar flakes from his queer fingers
and call the boys.

She’s outside smoking a generic cigarette.
A line of smoke jets from the corner
of her mouth. Son-of-a-
bitch, she mutters, having scrubbed it off
three times already. She is too thin,
and her hair falls flat as road dust
in the gasoline-scented breeze.
I am home once more as her break
ends with a stubbed promise—
I just might lock that door,
let ‘em keep their crap to themselves.

 

 

 

 

Comunicado desde Estados Unidos auténticos
       translated by Stephen Berard

a la manera de James Wright

 
Al salir de la autopista que va para Tacoma, mi amigo y yo
compramos gasolina en North Bend.
Mientras él compra panecillos dulces envolucrados en celofán,
yo utilizo el retrete. En el bastidor metálico
sobre la puerta del compartimiento, veo escrito
nigger/mexican bar. Ya que soy tan blanco
como el hombre que lo escribió, tardo algunos segundos
en ver el dogal

alrededor del cuello moreno. Jesús, pienso,
el asiento un halo helado contra mis cachetes. Tengo miedo que
la dependiente se encoja de hombros, como si esto vaya a ser otro chiste
está en tu mano. Tengo miedo de que vea a mi amigo
lamiendo las hojuelas azucaradas de sus dedos amanerados
y llame a los muchachos.

Está afuera fumando un cigarillo no de marca.
Una raya de humo le sale disparada
de la comisura. Carajo,
dice entre dientes después de haberlo ya
quitado fregando tres veces. Es flaquísima,
y su cabello cae llano como polvo de la calle
en la brisa perfumada de gasolina.
Otra vez estoy en casa al terminarle
el descanso con una promesa apagada—
puede que cierre esa puerta con llave,
se pueden guardar su mierda.

 

 

 

Derek Sheffield’s poems are forthcoming in The Southern Review and the Alaska Quarterly Review. His poems have previously appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Orion, and Wilderness. He teaches poetry and nature writing at Wenatchee Valley College in central Washington.
  
Stephen Berard has degrees in Latin, German, and Classics and holds a Ph.D. in Germanic Philology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has studied fifteen languages and now teaches German, Latin, and Spanish at Wenatchee Valley College. His most recent publication is the first in a series of seven fantastic/poetic novels called The Sphinx Heptology.  You can find more information about his work on his Latin website.

Photo credit: Gas Station via photopin (license).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons