g r a v e l
A L I T E R A R Y J O U R N A L
“I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I could remember. That’s just my style.” –Royal Tenenbaum
The images on Google Earth are all fucked up.
The bird’s eye view shows a black minivan in my driveway
exactly where my red Geo Tracker should be.
It’s like one day I was replaced!
I can’t do algorithms or anything that involves finding
a square root, but it’s got me thinking about satellites
and space stations and plausibility and probability,
the lottery and how the hell am I supposed to know
what’s really happening in my house
or anywhere else when I’m not there?
Shit. That black minivan could have been the Prize Patrol.
And I missed it.
I was probably out buying lottery tickets and condoms
or shopping for sandal foot panty hose and Listerine.
Shit. I could have been home to open the front door
to a five foot cardboard check and five thousand dollars a week for life.
If only I’d been there.
I could be loaded.
I could be getting a coconut oil rub down
and half way to drunk on tequila blanco and fish tacos
in my very own cabana on Isla Mujeres.
I could have said sayonara suckers to my day job.
I could be dead.
The black minivan could have been filled with Kirby uprights,
and sweating vacuum salesman, my house the last stop on a dry day,
and I’d have told him: no gracias to a demo
and I probably would have been beaten
to death with a vacuum attachment.
Because I can come off as a real bitch in these types of situations.
If I had my own satellite, I’d program it to capture every minute I’m alive.
I could spend my nights looking through all the images.
Maybe I’d never see any sign of life.
I don’t know.
I quit watching TV
and I learned to thread my sewing machine.
I had so much time
I started cheating on my husband with my husband
and before I knew it we were cleaving,
like in The Bible, not like butchers.
And let me tell you he knew it,
he knew every inch
of what I was up to and he liked it.
So he turned off his TV
and he started building things,
crafting, really, rings and hoops and springs
and spools out of wood. He couldn’t afford
a cord of black walnut or Northeast pine
so he went out at night to fell his own trees
with an ax and a light strapped to his head.
In one of the maple logs he rough cut
he found out just what finding
a curly maple could do to a man.
He broke open everything we had
just to see inside a thing.
He dug down deep
through the bottom of our well, he split
skipping rocks, table legs,
Japanese puzzle boxes in two.
And I had more time
for jumping jacks and sit ups
and checking my breasts for divots and lumps
until everything felt the same
as it always was.
I’m exhausted from rain dancing in April
and bellowing my snow cry with the fireflies in mid-January.
I’m tired of splitting my heels against the earth
hoping someone out in the ether will listen,
that the frost lines will shift scant degrees
and another inch of rainforest will be spared
by a handful of men and their gods.
I jog to the chiropractor, I pedal to the beer blast,
I unplug the clock radios we’ve all forgotten.
I’m up all night recycling pudding cups,
empty egg cartons and my dead skin cells.
I hear the fishermen of the Arctic will need lawnmowers soon.
I’d collect the oil from my glands to burn clean
if that would make the smallest bit of difference
to the polar bears losing their footing on the bergs.
And even though it won’t, isn’t that the grand point of life?
Just to do something, anything
different than what we’ve been doing.
I dance my ass off even though
it won’t be enough for what’s coming next.
I am not going to tell you again
how shitty it is that your brother
left your ’70 Nova SS to rot
on the side of the garage he’d emptied
then stocked with a hundred coffee cans
filled with mismatched screws
and quarter panels and fenders belonging
to an array of barrel-chested cars
and knobby-kneed trucks.
You were off fighting in Filipino bars
and standing at attention,
shining your boots, practice
for when you came home on leave
once every few years. And the first night
back home was always the same:
drinking at Lucky’s until dawn,
wide awake, waiting on a sliver of sun
to buff out the Nova’s tar paper shell.
You’d wax it into a black pearl
and you’d take out your buck knife
and beg your brother to take care of it
until death do it part.
And the knife, it was just for show,
so you’d shake on it instead,
in some convoluted gesture.
Then your family would clap you on the back
and wish you bon voyage and say
through the taxi cab window how it’s funny
how sometimes they can forget about you.
And each year the Nova sunk a little further
into the dirt, the beetles infesting the rubber
and the mites chewing on the foam
transuding out the vinyl seats.
You’d come home and jack it up,
like it was a perfectly normal thing to do,
patch its wounds, rub it with a salve
until it was sexless and speechless
and suffocated by smoothcap moss and ragweed.
You could have dragged the Nova onto a concrete slab
or built around it a home, a shelter,
during one of your handful of trips home
for a christening or the funerals.
You could have coated it with plaster of Paris
or swathed it in a madras shroud.
I won’t tell you so
not now after twenty years
when you’re breaking its bones
and burying it in the ground.