Rockaway Beach, Oregon
The drive takes hours in grey turbid mist.
Around each curve of these mountains are milk
cows in fields. It’s the season for cherries
and we can smell the sea, its salt. A dark-
haired girl sits at a roadside stand, smiles, waves
us toward boxes of cherries red as blood.
We buy three boxes. The girl squints her blood-
shot eyes as she wraps them. Evening. The mist
billows in now—sea smoke above the waves—
makes of the air a dense soup white as milk.
We get to the cheap motel before dark
and sit on the small bed eating cherries,
lips stained. Naked, you tie stems of cherries
in your mouth and bite your tongue. The blood
fills your mouth. You swallow it—that warm dark
and the end of the night’s romance—a mist
of sweat still on your skin. I know you’ll milk
this, go distant, sleep and fake sleep in waves,
dreaming of the drive, the sound of the waves,
freezing in the Pacific, eating cherries,
rinsing sand off our feet. Your kids drink milk
farther inland in bed; your husband’s blood
steady in his veins. Too trusting, he’s missed
all the hints, sleeps happily in the dark.
I don’t miss them, you say into the dark,
then go back to sucking your tongue. The waves
lick at our ankles. Stars dull in the mist,
the clocklike moon a blur. The wind cherries
your cheeks. We follow a smell like a blood
trail to the bar: scallops with oysters and milk.
When I was a boy, my mother would milk
the donkey when I was hurt. In the dark
barn, I’d sit and drink, to build up my blood
for nights like this. Quiet. Just the waves
folding beyond our room, beyond the cherries
in green boxes, beneath thickening mist.
This night of blood, of stems and pits of cherries,
the waves carry it out through the mist—
our last night in the dark, each other’s milk.
Oh dying loss, umbrella heart.
You played brave but lost the event.
It’s a sin. Ladies part and eat.
Day stretches out like rubber.
A man sits alone with his luggage,
has dessert. He will. Not today.
Every day is loss. Oh, stay,
day of true questions.
The siren screamed.
The light spun, a ballerina.
Is she dying? I asked the medic.
It’s a portal, asshole.
Cruel hint. There’s no tact in loss.
I wanted to eat the ambulance.
At home: television, vodka, Brando—
anything to numb.
I thought I saw you in the kitchen,
old lady dancing sober. Easy.
Do you know who I am? you said,
and drank a cherry cola.
I lose faces…
Cicada, you ache.