March 1, 2014 by The Citron Review
by Helen Wickes
Can’t ever plan for his brittle song, his rattling truck.
Sometimes you know in the moment’s foreboding:
Something good, as Tony crooned, before Maria,
before the rumble. Time catches its breath
when orange meets vanilla,
a Creamsicle for your jingle-jangle—the man
drives away for years, descending the great valley
one crop at a time—rice, cotton, grapes, lettuce.
He crosses the Mojave to Barstow, swings past
Mono Lake, turns west.
You swear you hear him, but it’s another bell,
tolling late mass, or some kid on a bike,
his bell a’twitter.
Around the corner, sang Tony, and whistling
down the river—the couple next door have another kid,
the guy down the block has died, the elm out back as well.
There’s a place for us, no, that comes later
when they haven’t a prayer, and their long-awaited
has come and gone, as film crackled,
the soundtrack sputtered. There’s two kids on a fire escape,
all shining hope. Dear Officer Krupke,
we’re still no good, the we’re no damned good
sung with the sweet flare
our days were burning toward.
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.