you are in the diode archives v6n3



Facing Serious Time

I show up in Galveston too late.
You taught me that: last
on the scene, post catastrophe,
open-armed, lugging water,
matches and crosswords.
Be the one with a car.

But sometimes it’s been years
since the wreckage crews
shook their heads and threw

up their tarps. I’m only
dealing with the heat, old signs
of rubble, deadly weight of water,

reminders of shingles and trees,
memories of wind-shear,
stained glass and awnings,

the loss and the findings:
after devastation,
all these stupid, bitter projects.

And so it was with you. Silent wires.
After everyone went home.
After the tide started again.

Months counted like prayer beads
in the slack hands of a child,
clicking like sticks in rocks glasses.

Years for throwing away debris.
It turned out my life
didn’t end when you died.

It turned out that the fact
that it didn’t
was an unpleasant shock.

To get down to the water,
you have to climb.
To get back up, you have to care.

There are difficult ways
to pretend you know
how to live.

There are worse ways
to scare yourself back to life.
It just takes forever.

There’s this strange thing
about Galveston. The shadows
under the boardwalks.

The thorns in the damp sand.
The ghosts in the buildings
that get left behind

and all the strange southern pines.
I’m always going to dream
that you’re coming to visit.

I accept that.
You’re welcome here.
You know you always were.

I choose to sit here
under this white umbrella,
to get the waiter’s attention,

to open the hotel room door
and plug the meter with wishes.
I’ve got pictures of the ruins,

I’ve got pictures of the fixes.
There’s shade underneath
all the scraps.


Peculiar, Missouri

I can’t always see
when I’m lost.
We drove north
through the Ozarks.
We drove on the two-lanes,
twisted past the rivers
and the bluffs
and the attitudes.
Everything was broken
before Texarkana.
Everything seemed to need
some kind of mortar,
a slick coat of certainty.
Towns went up.
Towns went down.
We drove like it was the last time.
We learned about
thefts and murders
and lootings.
The divisions and the vandals.
Every Masonic Temple
has a story to tell.
Every town
has a class clown.
Before I stop again,
I’m going to make a promise:
I will set the brake.
I will not ignore the obvious.
The thing about restoration
is the materials:
lumber, drywall, grout,
suffering. You get
the rest of your life
to consider these damages.
These fixtures.


Mahogany Bay

When I think of Boise,
I remember spirals
and channels, the long
streams of roadway,

gravel, the headstones
windblasted gray, hidden
among the Harleys
and red mud flaps.

Like memory, a flash
at the center of sparklers,
the paths we avoid
and chain link we forget.

Some things will never
be still in Idaho.
You might not see
the Boise River.

I love Idaho in a way
that tells me I’m mobile,
the way I love laundry chutes
and memories of galloping,

the way Highway 95
barely glances off
the town of Moscow
tucked in with its language arts

and rowdy stoplights
and Rio de Janeiro dinners.
I may never know
exactly where you are.

Village funerals, like rodeos,
blend into the streets,
just beads and tumbleweeds.
Remember: the moon, the ripcord.

If you made it this far,
it’s easy to keep moving.
The state that muscles
its way to Canada.

The sage-colored desert,
dryland Palouse labyrinthine
and silent like myth,
like all our sad, worn loves.

The fragile winter stories.
Cars chug in reverse.
The children ran hard
through dead snow.

Mothers meet their lovers,
and you won’t always know
which way is up to no good,
which way faces the sunset.

Horses switchback slowly
down the canyon frost,
one step, next step.
Drifts cover unlocked cars,

boot tracks and rest stops,
the gaps in the official story,
the worry and the safety,
the rest of the descent.  


Betsy Brown has published poems in recent issues of Antioch Review, B O D Y, Conduit, Conte, H_NGM_N, Prairie Schooner, and Waccamaw. Her book Year of Morphines (LSU Press) was a National Poetry series winner; poems from that collection appeared in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly, Sonora Review,and other journals.