“The heart writes in indelible ink”
~Steve Almond, “Ecstasy”
I followed you out west,
when I was in despair—
you took me back, reluctantly.
We spent the winter in that tiny
trailer house along a washboard road,
spooning the frigid nights away,
when it went down to five below—
and woke to haloes of frost on
the wall where our heads had lain.
Though that infernal itch
impelled me to move on—
I remember you most fondly
when it goes down to five below.
Stone on Stone
“Caw caw caw crows shriek in the
white sun over the grave stones…”
~Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish
Headlights lit in the middle of the day
we follow the man (who I’d now call young),
borne in heavy traffic through the heart of town
to a district of deceptive winding roads
and project housing with trampled lawns,
shattered bottles, and enumerable crows
that ignore the iron gates
guarding a deep narrow lot.
There, a phalanx of dull grey stones,
some leaning this way and that, all
advancing toward a chapel of yellow brick.
This is our destination.
He’d said to me, not long before
I want to die
knowing full well I agreed,
suffering as he did,
and for so long.
I still get lost whenever I return
to snatch up a chunk of gravel
from where we park, to place it
in remembrance on his stone.
Stone on stone, over the bones
of the man I called my father.
I Could Forgive Him
“When the night talks to you, you gotta listen… Look at that moon. Listen to that desert.”
~Robert Boris, Electra Glide in Blue
I was not made for abuse,
no, I was meant for a gentler hand
on my throttle, and a boot with
more finesse on my shifter.
But when I got to know him,
those sorrowful destinations
I took him to, those crazy friends
and troubled women he hung with,
I could forgive him. He needed
something to take his anger out on,
so it might as well have been me.
Truth be told, I got to enjoy it, like
that night he and Tony closed down
Mr. Henry’s. With a head full of
vodka, he took the hairpin turns of
Beach Drive so fast it dragged
my footpegs. Or when he held my
engine at redline, down the long hill
to the Wilson Bridge, his warm
belly laying flat on my tank
I couldn’t help but give him all I had.
How proud we both were, when my
spedo needle froze at one hundred
and ten—I never knew I could go
so fast. But that night he met Ilene
I was so sure he was going to get
laid, until he blew the turn and
dumped her in the weeds. She
seemed like a nice girl, a good head
on her shoulders, who might have
done him some good. They weren’t
hurt, but my forks got bent. He
patched me up, damn it all, with second
hand parts that didn’t match. Like
Ilene, it was too much for me to bear;
not long after, I threw a rod along
a lonely stretch of Route 66. Perhaps
a better man, with a warm garage
and a lighter touch, who loved
me for my classic lines, would
have kept me going. But I’ve seen
both coasts, and the Gulf of Mexico,
blasted up dirt roads in the Rockies.
I’ve crossed blistering deserts, and
fired up at five below. Would I trade
all that for the nice garage, and
pleasant Sunday rides? Not on
your life! Just let me rust away.
Ode to Bill Evans
may be within
you find the peaceful
easy feeling when you
love hate is easy love is
hard without peace
in your heart
you can’t have
if you can’t give
peace you can’t give
if you can’t love
peace you can’t find
if you can’t know
peace won’t happen
if you can’t
Alan Abrams has worked in motorcycle shops, construction sites, and architecture studios. He has lived in the heart of big cities, and in the boonies on unpaved roads. His poems and stories have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Rat’s Ass Review, The Raven’s Perch, Bud and Branch (UK), LitBop, and others. His poem “Aleinu,” published by Bourgeon, is nominated for the 2023 Pushcart Prize.
Image: pyntofmyld, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons