Old Towns and Sad Women

Wind writes its history in everything—
the receding sound of running feet,
dim-lit shadows on dusty windowpanes,
a lover’s bittersweet smile as she thinks
this is the last time, always the last time.

Neon is fractured in the old towns—
anyone’s guess what some signs used to say,
like buttoned-up smiles of regret
seen more often than not on sad women
who never consider what could have been.

Like unpeeling the layers of an onion—
red-purple violet midnight on the outside,
opaque as dream as you near the heart. Any town
full-up with decay, any woman with more baggage
than the dead letter office, peel the layers.

Longing begins at the first gaze out of town—
there is no one to love here, just slumped shoulders
and indifference. Wobbling wheels on discontented lives
and grayed-out pasts, and more damage
than a snow fence after winter. Go now.

Today’s Joy

What thrives lovely on this day
when the heat has finally tamped down

and thick walls of morning fog hold
in the cool like adobe, even hours later.

Two friends glow as they finish a run.
Wristbands and forehead bands drenched,

they relax on a bench, fingers touching.
Sweat forms patterns in the rest area sand.

They watch the sun filtered through trees
tall as mountains and drink heartily

from bottles filled in a nearby clean creek.
Now their eyes sweep for small pleasures:

a contrail bisects the blue. Foliage crackles
as the forest leans into autumn.

Water flows over stones. Dragonflies land
on reeds. Columbines bloom along the shore.

Insects hum their ambient language,
and two friends—their breath turns into song.

Hiding in Plain Sight

It’s that time of year
when corn is just higher than the cat,
lupines are starting to sprout
but blossoms will still be a while.

The junkman’s making his rounds again,
his truck as dented as his bliss.
Joy has become a crossword puzzle word,
no longer the woman who sleeps,

sheets covering half her face
as she dreams of wildflowers
and spring rains, waking
up thirsty and content.

The plumber with the awful band
practices in his garage with the door open.
He annoys the whole neighborhood
as he sings loud and flat,

checks the calendar for his next party.
He misses that woman who came last time—
tight white jeans, stilettos, and bare arms,
red thong visible in half bad taste,

half dare you to look, six-pack clutched
under one arm. He’d talked to her
for a few drunken minutes, couldn’t
remember her name if you paid him.

And “Old Smoky Red” dyed her hair last night.
Cigarette still dangling as usual, but
“Old Smoky Black” just doesn’t seem the same.

© Tobi Alfier 2020

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. Symmetry: earth and sky was published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review.