Earning Stripes in the Cellar
Jim Davis

Kicking rocks into a black lake
of swans that spread and lift, shade
and shower us with black, baptismal wind.
I have wasted hours pining at the window,
igniting evergreens, the pulsing white lines
that weight their arms. I dig through the needles
molting slowly, and the gray snow that begs.
Shaken from sleep, I claw at the song on the radio,
aching for refrain. The self-destructive art
of putting words to moments, ideas, poetics –
where words inherently fail. In the dark
I mapped out your body for the first time,
returned frequently. Stacked pin oak, post oak
limbs to dry, shackled the roof to the sky.
If you’d let me, I’d begin again. I’d spend a lifetime
picking chords to the same song. And to tell you
the truth, it wouldn’t matter. I wake up shaking.
I drink till it’s appropriate, shake the guitar
for quarters. It was something with rhythm, I recall,
something you didn’t much care for, after all.
Still, when it scratches through the speakers
as you drive through the night and its white,
pulsing highways, you adjust the volume,
stare like a stone drunk, tap your fingers
as the black lake stains your toes.

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