Spring 2010, Volume 8

Poetry by Jeff Streeby

Wilderness

4:00 am.  The latch closing with a soft snick, a sound like love clocking out.  No hint of glorious triumph.  Already her perfume fading from the pillow.  In from the cool dark, scents of rain and eucalyptus.  The wind has changed again.  Patter of water puddling under eaves.  My gray cat at the foot of the bed rises, stretches, drops silently to the floor.  There have been no miracles after all.

The alarm clock’s precise click cocks and arms stiff triggers ticking toward dawn.  I won’t sleep now.   

Under the window, sheen of asphalt.  Streetlights’ foggy halos.  At the curb, shriek of worn belts, her old pickup running rough as she starts it up. We are not to be delivered.  Crackle of stray gravel, hiss of bald tires on the wet street.  Neither are we to be redeemed.  A block down, her right signal flashes bright once, then she’s gone.  At the corner a cloud, twin cones of her truck’s luminous exhaust gradually vanishing.

Today, like everyday, a bronze sunrise over the Sierras.  My Metrolink commute runs right on schedule.  Along the right-of-way, thick stink of wet ash.  Tamed by a little shower, an early wildfire has come under control.  I remember: Across those burned acres, there will be, half buried in ash, hundreds of old bottles filled with bodies of mice, of crickets, of those dark, delicate lizards that took shelter there.  Highway traffic is backed up through five interchanges, mop-up clogging the route.  Road flares.  CHP directing traffic.  A helicopter chasing hotspots makes a water drop. The news crews are already packing up.  Southwest, another line of squalls builds over the water. 

Miriam, was it?  I am no desert prophet.  I have no sacred staff, no conjuror’s tricks.  I have only this briefcase, a client list, this daily train ride.  No manna falls.  No holy spring issues from the stone.  It was Miriam, wasn’t it?  We seethe what we can seethe.  You have your private promised land and I have mine.  We are appetite and conceit, Miriam, and only briefly each other’s tempting mirage.  Bow, kneel, beseech—fire or not, for us there is to be no translation.  Miriam, we’re alone.  We shelter awhile in each other.  And then we’re done. 

 

BIO: Jeff Streeby grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, where he attended Morningside College. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Gerald Sternís program at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. He is a horseman, cowboy poet and performer whose recent work has appeared in or has been accepted for Alehouse; Flashquake; Rattle; Simply Haiku, Naugatuck River Review, and others.