St. Louis / January 1891
We play whist with four sapphics,
and poker with ghost-men just back
from the grasshopper plagues. Zanna bluffs
savagely. She's more at home here than I,
more even than Smoke, who has to outwit
wharf-roustabouts from their river hauls.
Zanna could live in a winter apartment,
could stand the mix of sleet and cigarettes.
I want gape-mouthed August, with pumpkins
and mushmelons, yams and barracuda,
cloudberries and carrots. I want a train
whistling "down brakes" at five a.m. and us,
Walt, at Union Station, waiting. Last night
the river said I'd find you on my own,
said There are natural confluences, said
go to Chicago. Please believe that I know
that rivers work like sirens, that eights
follow aces, that barracuda are sea-fish.
Zanna and I take our meals on bare carpets.
We eat dust and splinters, drink our own blood.
Saint, vampire, old at 26,
Wheeling / February 1892
The horizon is finally jagged. It fits us,
Walt. The news this week finds two men
on a bridge, fighting over a mud-cat; both
fall off. The judge declares them a nuisance,
locks them up for a month. All this
while the rain spills in platinum sheets,
while Zanna walks the riverbank, scavenging
with Smoke. All this while I think
the world's going nowhereshe'll leave,
bridges will topple, my own dog won't know me.
Would it help if I gathered bloodroot and zinnias,
made a wreath by her feet, cut my throat
at the crossroads? Things are out of my hands,
Walt, the way the rain fallsit just falls.
Or maybe she'll stay. Nothing surprises me.
We may hit the coastline and keep going,
greet the Atlantic with our necks shackled,
sink into the rocks and breakers.
Waist-deep in West Virginia,