To hear cigarette as only a sound, none
_ _ of those ashes on the red leather,
Wild rose and no taste of fuchsia petals between my teeth,
_ _ bathing suits drying on the rocks –
And tapdance free of the clicking in Helene’s basement,
_ _ her red hair, it all coming undone.
Highway empty of the cold, all those songs,
_ asphalt_ buckled with frost,
And frost, not my fingers going numb, scratching
_ _ forests of it from those old storm windows –
Window minus the slate roof, slate minus
_ _ my father on the scaffolding every spring –
To feel autumn in my mouth and not be
_ _ back in it, shoes untied in a yellow classroom.
Let cemetery mean nothing,
_ _ no white butterflies, cold shade, no view of the
Ocean hear ocean devoid of the
_ _ noon whistle, the flag becalmed or gonging all night
In the wind. To hear the clear absence of a life –
_ _ to stand under the streetlamp
Without any snow sifting down through the orange light,
_ _ without any histories stapled to the telephone pole.
Gretchen Steele Pratt received her MFA from Purdue University and currently teaches English at Wingate University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Boston Review, The Iowa Review, The Southwest Review, Indiana Review, Witness, AGNI Online, The Gettysburg Review and on Poetry Daily. (updated 7/2009)