C.M. Clark Sebastian (Sean Sexton)
Next to Last Chance Saloon
Halfway between cow and cormorant
Lake Wales appears. Your perfect excuse
to quit driving. To quit
the keener purpose of driving
between what is boundless and the finite. Always
the ground between.
An off-road shoulder like some old woman’s bed
growing colder with years and indifferent. Can you imagine
the sheer acreage of exfoliating skin?
The body scent that fades
with each day’s exhalation? Or are you called instead
inside a virtual elsewhere, the echoed jackhammer of feet
dizzying hexagons of tiled stairways?
Migraine-blind you rise
six flights. But the back bedroom stays hidden--
just waiting behind dry cleaning and winter coats
cocooned and swaddled in plastic. These
are the places that joust, that beckon
east to west, taking refuge and a lunch
where avoidance is most likely preferred
chicken fried steak or breakfast all day. Or
just the jazz
of numbing hours
and miles, just
for the lust of soft Gulf water.
There is a dead spot I like
between points on the map.
Still too close to the town receding
as only a vague blur of slow traffic
and low buildings fixed
in the rearview mirror. Yet
not yet near enough the next county line --
not yet my destination -- yet a welcome
relief from the monotony
of brush and flat field.
In this dead spot I spin the dial.
Still a younger sister to radio days, knowing
the place by the cellphone towers.
Better than the billboards,
the come-to-Jesus vowels crooning
the oldies, the country quick nod
to God and Sunday.
in the dead
I snag only fragments of a place
already distant, and even fewer
half sentences anticipating
the next exit
still out beyond my windshield.
Straining to hear the transmissions
of forgettable voices straining
to assemble some meaningful
message, although every third word is swallowed
within the blur of road noise and wind shear.
From here to your front door due west
pavement plumbs the numbing miles.
The succinct limits of my very human vision –
my old tired eyes – the tired blue – succumbing
to cataract fog and still
straining west, the still unseen outpost
on your coast beyond my best attempt
to conjure you in your kitchen, closing
lower cupboards, with a brisk hip move.
The drawer with flatware juddered in closing,
hiding coupons, and lyrics to songs
that frame the stanzas of every evening’s lullaby,
these late days left unsung. But
I hear it. Between waves.
like the air.
like the sea.