The hunter’s bullet lodges in my side
like the pin bones of salmon wedged
in the back of my throat.
My life balances on the border
between my favorite comfort foods,
and the blade of the taxidermist.
You would make me into a trophy,
gutted and cured to become an ornament,
in your seasonal hunting cabin.
Raw honeycomb, Caribou marrow,
salmon roe stuck to my tongue,
psalms of my home made flesh,
call me back into my survival
instincts for my sleeping children.
She who outruns deer & devours
strong bucks with antlers the size of sequoias
could not outrun the champion sprinter,
American made bullets.
But when you realize your rumpus
disturbed wild things, there is no time to reload.
You brought a potluck into the den
of a slumbering mother with cubs.
My teeth are agonizingly real
And my jaws are in your belly,
rooting for the lost rib of Adam.
I am prepared to caravan our
Cargo across the country into
New times zones.
Carpool with our college friends
Through rush hour traffic and back roads
Without street lights or deer crossing signs.
Pledge my allegiance to the
Fraternity of road trippers who
Believe all homes are mobile.
Measure myself by interstate
Mile markers—every township line
We cross is an invisible stamp
On the passport of my soul.
Spend bathroom breaks between pilgrimages
Gluing Polaroid pictures of our expedition
Next to city names in our road atlas.
Learn how to piss into coke
Bottles in bumper to bumper
Traffic between rest stops.
Discover new reasons to live
As the glow of brake lights guides
Me toward the next exit.
She is not a paper doll pressed between
Sheets of cellophane in my notebook for
The world to undress with their eyes.
She elbows me out of dreams featuring
Peter Pan with his Lost Boys, and leaves
A bruise the shape of Illinois on my ribs.
She sews on the Metro without a thimble and pricks
Her fingers stitching buttons onto her black pea coat—
White thread bleeds red in her hand.
When she rides the North Line in the winter,
She sails past her stop for the thrill of surveying
New parts of the city bundled in winter clothes.
She collects deserted train tickets with expired
Destinations, and passes the minutes between
Stops speaking with strangers.
Most of them grumble that the Cubs won’t win
The series until they let a goat into Wrigley.
I would trade her every canceled ticket stub
In my wallet to buy her hot chocolate at the
Next random stop she chooses.
But she and I will always be passengers on
Opposite trains traveling to different cities.
Railroad tracks along the Keystone Line
Gleamed with a copper luster under light
From the Dog Star and the solstice moon.
Those slivers of metal became more valuable
After they were squished by the weight of train cargo
And blessed by the red light of the railroad crossing.
The coins we minted weren’t trinkets
We could spend at the general store.
They didn’t belong to the government.
We created a currency for our neighborhood.
We stockpiled them in mason jars,
Traded them for boyhood commodities,
And made necklaces for our girlfriends.
I can’t say when the others cashed out.
Maybe it was the day they started earning
Bigger coin in the mines and the mills.
I walk the tracks at night, searching for the
Cents we lost beneath the splintered ties.
There is a rusty coffee can in my garage
Filled with distorted faces and Lincoln memorials.
I recognize those weathered shapes
Better than my friends’ faces
She wears my military
Issue jacket into the cold.
We stalk the empty platform.
Our breath trails behind us,
Like the smoke of a locomotive.
She wants to travel in shadows
Beneath a veil of frost.
I want to give her the diamond
My former fiancé left me.
But I would feel like a conductor
Returning a ticket stub, proclaiming
I am a passenger without my own momentum.
We trudge through the snow
And board the late train to Harrisburg.
I incinerate the love left in my heart.
One day I will wake up and
She will tell me it’s spring.