Still-Life on the Road to Los Ojos

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March 1, 2014 by The Citron Review

by Helen Wickes


First waking’s to sound, the dog hoovering flies
off the floor, wheezing from sinus trouble
and from a scorpion bite.

From sleep, swirling toward me, but refusing to cohere
into faces, my lost people come partway back.

Second waking of the morning has the mind
asking its body, have we met? Across the road
where Delfin’s butchered a steer,

the coyotes approach for leftovers, cringing
and fleeing all night, waiting to get shot at,

which this time, doesn’t happen. The back porch
rocking chair, roiled by the wind, sounds like
it’s in a hurry, on a secret mission,

and today’s gargoyle crouches on my chest, waiting
for me to wake up. Can’t read your face, sir,
pointy chin in your bony little hands,

as September flips the pages. What to order
for winter warmth. What you want never quite is,
as happened last week,

when Judith’s boy snagged his first rainbow, barely legal,
hand-carried it to fry in butter at the Whistle Stop Café.
The head, tail, and insides missing from his plate.

The child grieved all through dinner, through coffee
and cake, until José went through the trash.

The kid’s rescued fish head now stored in the freezer,
and he speaks to it when he needs to.

Helen Wickes grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania. She lives in Oakland, California, where she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. She received her MFA in 2002 from Bennington College. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press.


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