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Sixty-three stories above Surfer’s Paradise, AU
my glass is touched by alcohol for the first time
just as the sun smooths away into a hovering night.
At seventeen, my hand is forced up
by a tongue curiouser and curiouser,
and by *****’s Don’t be a *****
from behind the kitchen island.

Not much stays:
the bite of raspberry *****,
chocolate-chip mint ice cream,
a shower turned hot, then cold.

***** wakes me with a kick
Put some pants on
and we walk the boardwalk at dawn
just to feel things, he says.

The city wakes, yawning, stretching
with the tide rolling ever-in
to wash away yesterday’s footprints,
and ahead, a busker opens for the day,
finger pickin as if inviting
my soles to dance
with the ocean, and sink between its hands.
We ***** our tents on the hardpack
of the town’s airport,
rows of stakes and guidelines
like a fishing wharf in the tundra;
the mail plane comes at one,
an overfull vulture circling above
before looping North towards
the Gates of the Arctic for the approach run.
The landing is
        a front row rock concert
        where the bassist only knows one chord
        and the drummer is still setting up:
        the tone resonates in the ooze of our marrow;
that is to say, the landing is simple,
drifting over alpine fir and spruce tops
with ballet grace
before cutting power
and slamming wheels to gravel.

Yesterday’s rain feeds the Yukon today.
Its hands reach for a hard cloud ceiling
and its lows, its troughs call my name,
call my name, call my name,
endless waves in the river’s center,
arcing with storm energy
and grip strength.

Other planes come, and leave,
and helicopters set down near us.
We play cards in their wind,
drink camp coffee that strains
through the teeth and plugs the gaps;
we watch and we wait
for seats that never come,
waiting to leave this airport runway,
waiting to fight the big fires.

We hear the boats before we see them,
curving around the clay banks
and we line our packs along
their aluminum walls.
We sit in plastic bags
to keep dry of river spray,
I hear my name again,
and another mail plane
takes off. The hardpack vibrates
under the wheels, the engines scream
their one note show,
and the DC-3 sinks off the runway towards
the Yukon – and us – before catching itself,
then slowly, so slowly we can almost touch
the silver belly, it growls to the North
and loops South towards Fairbanks.
On the shoulder of I-84’s
overpass as eastbound
enters Portland,
an almond tree
lets down its fruit.

Her petals,
pink the same as preschoolers
color the sky
and white as the paper
beneath the wax,
tremble in the violence
of Internationals
and Peterbilts,
the same violence
that grabs fistfuls
of my sweater
in intervals.

Jack under, jack up,
lug nuts off after a fight
and this freeway tumbles
in a storm of those flowers
cast off in April-sun,
I am down a layer and sweaty.

Steel wire arcs where sidewall was
and rubber gralloch marks its death,
those eight seconds of braking
behind, those eleven tree species
lined as a windbreak.

      I am lucky to have stopped
      beneath this almond.
      It is the only tree in bloom
      along this stretch.
      Its softness has lessened the day.
      Her olfactory embrace deadens
      that of axle grease and sunrot.
      I am not afraid of those trucks
      passing a wrench-span away.
      This is enough, for now.
A funeral came by the coffee shop today.
Draped in sable and charcoal
their faces angular and lower
than usual –
pinched against cemetery winds.

From my seat in the corner I watch.
The children sit on parental laps
fighting hugs hugged too tight
and smearing blueberry scones
against their tiny faces,
happy in their moment.

The adults array round
the long table, talk in soft                                                        
        "Did you see
                 -----‘s dress?
         Ugh, so ugly."
Their voices carry
through the business,
scathing and sharp,
angry in their moment.

An older gentleman leans his cane
against his knee, palsy mug
pressed against the tabletop,
and stares. Stares. Stares
at three generations,
stares alone in his moment.
I hope you will consider
this letter, this thousandth
I’ve written
but the first sent to you,
as an old friend, as a joy,
as an outpouring of my affection.
I trust in a warm reception;
this has lain in my desk
for years, but it speaks
for itself and needs no comment;

What I’ve wanted to say
is that light is light;
the snowdrifts in the corner
of my building are poetry,
frozen and windblown,
and I see in them hope for spring;
I find myself longing
to meet you on a hillside
somewhere, green and fertile,
and we would embrace
as companions who never
lost the love of youth.

Rather, I’ve wanted to
write this openly
because with you
one must be open.

I am up and dressed,
live here lonesome
sometimes but in spirits
both hearty and good.

Write to me.
Faithfully yours.
The locals invite us for an evening game;
the town has 27 residents
and most worked today.

The Rampart team comes slowly,
dressed in waders and mitts in hand,
riding quads with beer coolers
in back.

They take the field first,
arrayed against a forested
backdrop and smoking,
all of them smoking
drinking running running
running as the softball skips
across the ground like so many
days flown by too quickly.

We mark ten runs and swap,
taking places with 11pm shadows
following us.

The never-setting sun
plays with our hair
as one hand might
play with the wind while driving,
that is, all fingers;
our own are spread between leather
webs and dusty stitches;
the ash on our hands
settles into our palm lines;
and we play deep into the night
on a gravel airstrip overlooking
the Alaskan interior.
Orion has my eyes.
or rather, his belt
does (like
        what happens when you
        cross your eyes in the mirror
        and two becomes four
        becomes three if you strain
        just enough)
and maybe that’s narcissistic of me
but our first kiss let me see
your eyes instead.

As if the geysers
on Enceladus
are whispering
snowfall in my ear
I can hear the morning
rustling of my blood
and yours.

Our hands will build
the other with smooth stones
while Orion breathes above.
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