|Jul/Aug 2008 Poetry Special Feature|
Alone on Mars
I watched Sara pull away with a truckload
of furniture and kids, the dog barking.
Sara hung a left and drove west
past a cistern where we once skinny dipped.
Divorced, she was driving towards Phoenix
or any suburban satellite with a mall.
Wherever it was, it was another planet.
I stayed behind in an alien landscape,
a few agates strewn among dusty stones.
Sunflowers seeds and wilted celery
were all the supplies I had. I felt woozy,
as if breathing in thin atmosphere,
one where any sign of life was a target
for thick, red dust storms.
I couldn’t find the kids’ framed photos
of our trip to Disneyland. Everything
had been packed into the spaceship,
that like a beat-up truck was slowly
inching its way home to a blue planet,
as I peered into the darkness
of a Martian sky.
Digging Up a 19th Century Steamboat
My brother was an amateur psychic
who drank too much,
and had no direction in his life.
He swore there was a steamboat
buried under our feet.
He swore that if we found it,
he’d give up drinking.
What could I do? I sank a shovel
into our celery field
and I began to dig.
From the width of an archery target,
our hole soon gaped like a cistern.
Then crumbling cliffs.
We could have been digging
our way across Panama,
the way landslides oozing
from slopes rafted down on us,
determined to keep their secrets.
Water squirmed upwards
from old springs.
Pumps were brought in.
A paddlewheel emerged from the slop.
Clothes, tobacco pipes, the steamer’s second deck
began to rise like a man
long buried in a peat bog.
Spoons, agates, dolls, and broken axles surfaced
the way that Roman coins and nails
have worked their way up to ground level
across the fields of Europe.
What had we uncovered?
What we’d found was something
we had always known, but so disturbing
that we had always passed over it:
that like this steamer, our lives
were merely passing