Outside Las Vegas
In the Silver Dollar John
I place my hand flat on the sink
wrench around
& look at my face to see what happened.
Later I watch someone's neighbor undress
then hit herself across the back with a cat-o'-nine-tails
before lights out. I walk around incognito
in my own home. Dispatcher
of long-distance affections,
the twenty-eighth caller on the call-in show,
the one who gets abruptly nasty & begins to weep,
I signal for a time-out.
My best friend became a doctor at forty,
sits alone
in his office eating sardine sandwiches
practicing his technique.
It's the heart, he says, it's
diabetes, prostate, that'll be two hundred dollars.
We used to strip
down & examine each other's equipment.
Persuaded by the heart of things,
by time spent there alone,
we believed in life, in the life to come.
Now I'm traveling to Mexico by stake truck,
riding in the back. Dressed by a fire,
among friends,
I compare dog bites & episodes w/the Virgin,
and make big claims about my capacity for love.
In the right-
hand pocket of my former life I've left something for you.
That is, darling, your turn will come.
I'd walk out on myself if I could.
I love the distant glow in the nighttime desert sky
like a worn yellow spot in the dark
everything might still slip through.

--- From Women of America
Charlie Smith
©2004 W. W. Norton
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH