Tears and snow leave
unattractive stains on your cheeks,
so you move to the desert.
Only the dead speak so far from the cold
city lights, and even the dead are
usually silent. When they do find a voice,
it is only their bones rattling,
not endless jawing in bars or lecture halls
or under bright election banners.
There is no rhetoric in the desert
because there in nothing in the desert.
The phone lines, the spindly cell towers
struggle to stretch their arms so wide.
When I call from back East, we can hardly speak.
Do I understand why you left?
There is so much bright pain here under the lights.
Click and whoosh, you light a cigarette
before you say, “I’ve washed off all the soot
the city left on me.” My laugh is not quite
bitter when I tell you the tobacco was packed
under North Carolina factory fluorescence.
The call is dropped. I bite my lip. Do you sit,
listening to the song the wind sings
streaming through naked ribcages
stripped of all that made them
so dirty, so noble?
Originally Published in the January/February 2016 Issue.