Interstate-10 by Craig E. Flaherty

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prelude: a small fire along the banks started with
the crumpled pages from the great american
poetry 19th century anthology
esquire magazine covers
placemats from memorable restaurants
diploma certificate from the fast food academy
and institute of corporate culinary
achievement letters of recommendation
the blessing from the pope after the ninth
child graduated parochial school
the fire melts the plastic st. christopher
mounted on the pressed wood base
the death certificate for baby john doe my
child my baby my infant
blurred on the covered gurney swiftly
trotted past the delivery room door
but the dam broke and swept it all charred
unresolved black ragged
pasted at the high water mark on spillway
walls inside storm drains
the melted plastic attracted bottom feeders
swollen paper was eaten by roaches at the
end of time the dam broke
the heavy metals spewed into the water tables
profits poured into offshore accounts
promises of ” ’till death do us part” drowned
the kids learned that up was never there
after vietnam everything was in and out to mars
promised contracts hid the lead laced water
politicians passed the buck

allemande: after the long flight he sleeps in his
sister’s bed
downstairs her awareness slowly melts
she had said “come” but he waited a week
a day and a half left of her knowing eyes
3000 miles from his home grown tomato garden
three varieties for salads sauce and stuffing
black plastic over the soil
mail-order fertilizer from a midwest co-op
root feeding through five foot pvc pipes sunk
next to each stalk and wooden pole
in a bed laid along the sunniest side of his house
we talk on the phone “not much is working”
the twenty four hour nursing care
the three approaches to his sister’s needs
water no water ice chips water soaked towels
for the lips but “death prefers dryness”

courante: twenty years ago from his mother’s
dying the drone buzz
the plane that never arrives approaches
just beyond the regular focus
of the ear but leaps to mind when
reminded of the predestined crash
he held her hand he asked what needed asking
precious freeing words
does she remember that he left?
has she done something for herself?

gigue: his sister’s friends jockey for control come by
tell him to take care of this and that but
his sister has made it clear that she does not
want his hand on anything when he shows
her the five photos from home joy

sarabande: the weekend caregiver knocks because
her daughter can take care of the kids friday
saturday and sunday nights
the family’s from Botswana and he cooks her
corn on the cob in the microwave which she
thought impossible and they eat two buttered
ears apiece “please stay we’ll cook more”
his sister remembers him for a day and a half
the rest taken up with sleep and the gathering
whimpers of coma

fugue: “no can’t get a god damn map from the gas
station because the attendant speaks korean”
the dam breaks
intimacy has no patience with words
“yes saw an ad for new balance at big five
my computer is broken
the air conditioner does not cool
grocery stores? japanese specialty outlets”
I tell him “devoted to my new balance shoes
fifteen years the all leather edition which they
stopped making” what follows
“I ordered the same model number wrote
it down they had it but skimped ” always
a gotcha
“I soaked the shoes inserted trees they still
pinched where they skimped”
my friend says “had the same at LL bean
wore out working the garden hope the toms
get water while I’m away”

bouree: I tell him “I can find a big five store” near him
off I-10 just go north to exit 7B because I’m
at my computer and I do find it around the
corner with the numbers he gives me I warn him
“do not confuse the shopping mall with the strip
mall across the street where the big five is located”
he comes home with new shoes garden shoes snow
plowing shoes wash the car shoes new balance shoes

badinerie: my dead mother of 95 years abrupt dismissive
slips breaks in on the line to say again “I’m going away”
then the silence not to be broken everyone’s bridge
to pass over

the controlling angels gather outside the door to argue
about water

Craig E. Flaherty, writer of poems, reader at poetry groups, publisher of Coastline Window Poems, The Nature of Light, The Glossy Family, presenter at the Takoma Park Thursday Poetry Reading,  poetry group leader, member of Writing a Village. His poetry has appeared in Viator and The Raven’s Perch. A lifelong  performer of church music, organist, carilloneur, pianist with Dotke Piano Trio, husband, father, grandfather and accompanist to Jordyn Flaherty.


Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Tonkin_Highway_from_Great_Eastern_Highway_bridge_second.jpg

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