Stalemate by Eric Morris-Pusey

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.

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