Poems don’t always have to rhyme, you know. They’re just supposed to be creative.
–Sam Shakusky, “Moonrise Kingdom”
The Girl at 1215 E. Franklin
She has a glass of pink wine,
Same ruby-rhubarb as a skirt trailing uneven slate under the table.
Condensation and the liquid rim neon with treetop-sinking light.
The patio is quiet.
There is a loud group, the kind that drags two tables together, just around the corner,
sending back whifts of cigarette smoke
that finger into the leaves and Sweetgum branches over her head.
Her Audrey-Hepburn sunglasses lie open and upside down on the table.
Crust of a slice of lemon pie nestles in the rim-curve of a little plate, a fork laid across it.
She is mistress over a silver MacBook,
A notepad with half a page in a large round print,
And a BIC package, opened, the plastic cover bent back, still cradling a blue pen and a black one
but the pink is uncapped, in her hand.
She is writing, underlining words.
Large hoop earrings and a rosy mouth.
No makeup, fine brows and brown irises.
Hair hangs over her shoulder and to her waist.
She puts down the pen and twists it all upward toward the back of her head.
Resting her hand there, bouncing her foot, moving the ruby-rhubarb skirt.
Talking to herself.
Strings of low and rhythmic words.
Possibly French, by the ‘s’ and the ‘j’s.
Or, possibly English, after all.
Moving her pen and counting:
“one, two, three . . . seven, eight.”
She has removed her rings, five, and silver,
Left them jumbled and touching the edge of her paper.
Wide and filigreed,
And a singular turquoise stone at the crown of one band, top-heavy and surface-to-surface with the table.
Strands of hair are slipping down out of the twist.
She plays with them.
Pinches the clip open, lets it all fall.
Notes now pushed to the far rim of the circle table, beyond her.
A Sudoku page spread out, from the Indy Week, mostly likely.
It’s free at the door.
The fork, turned to the other side of the plate. The yellow crust is gone; excepting two large crumbs, the remains.
She winds her hair low, then lifts her arm, pulling the twist high, turning it round itself into a knot, holding it against the crown of her head, sliding the clip across it at an angle. Letting go. Dropping her hand.
Picking up her pen again.
This is why portrait artists
Get anything done at coffee shops
Other than portraits.
Run at Lake Ellen
Running, along the gravel trail above Lake Ellen,
dodging goose droppings,
In the heavy August post-dawn, already beady with humidity and salt sweat.
Past Booker Creek,
Which flows through Ellen into Jordan Lake,
There’s going to be a baptism, out at Jordan, in late September.
Down in the murky water where you were lowered after a confession,
Aluminum fishing boats, canoes,
overturned in the mucky pine roots here.
A dock, leaning into the water across the mist-surface supports one abandoned and severely faded red chair.
Susan said you could swim in it,
during the summer.
But the weathered community bulletin board, under Boy Scout roofing, with pet-sitting numbers in cut strips at the bottom of a printed flyer,
Says the water is home to four different kinds of turtles.
Including snapping ones.
You hope nobody sees you,
With this oversized outdated iPod.
You press the shuffle with your pinkie, looking for a rhythm you can match with your black and hot pink hand-me-down Reebok shoes.
Goose feathers caught in a basketball net at the street
Twist in the east-breaking sun.
At the corner of Taylor Street,
A lush and frondy tree sprawls out over the blacktop.
Teardrop bulges, green last week, suddenly deep burgundy.
Suddenly scuppernong black.
You’ve heard it twice in one week:
“A fig is an inverted flower.”
Once at the farmer’s market,
“Put the whole thing in your mouth,”
The grower said, “Pop it in.”
You did. It did not taste good to you.
You thought about chewing an inverted flower, and you tried to smile as you worked your jaw over the tiny seed crunches and thick, sticky skin.
(It was a large fig.)
The second time, reading a piece of junk mail from Trader Joe’s,
Addressed to a former tenant.
“Black figs from CA. $3.99 a pound!”
California is home to 98% of the country’s fig crop,
“Buy them while you can. The season doesn’t last long.”
This fig tree–
It’s in the neighbor’s yard, which is an unkempt rental yard. Overtaking the road.
This road is in the public domain.
This fig is in the road.
This fig in the road is public domain.
You pick it.
You don’t want this fig.
Not to eat it.
Just, as a sort of conquest.
A specimen of the outstanding 2% of the nation’s fig crop,
And absolutely free.
You curl it in the palm of your hand, where it fits perfectly.
Two ladies power walk by on the other side of Taylor.
You hope they don’t see
the oversized outdated iPod in your left hand,
Or the fig you just picked out of your neighbor’s tree in your right.
In the kitchen, still in your running shoes,
You cut it open.
Look at it,
For a long time.
Fleshy, inverted flower–
Until you’re ready to shower
And wash the evaporated lake off your skin.