The Poet Shops For A Used Sportscar
“Not red,” I tell the salesman. “Not black.” He
hesitates, mumbles. My best defense, certainty.
“White.” No overtones of middle-age regrets or false
illusions. They almost always come
sheathed in a dark gloss of power
or glowing crimson, candy apple,
fire. The one before us molten lava,
scarcely still, though standing here
inside the lines on asphalt.
For experience, I circle the radiant hulk,
eyes critical and hard, bend to examine
a scratch low on the front. This is not the place
for dreamers, no space here
for metaphor. Following advice
of men who know a thing or two about combustion,
crank shafts, timing belts, I stoop to look for leaks
and rust. I run my fingers over tires
to probe for misalignment, until I stop at something
soft and feathered, a great moth clinging
to black tread, grey ghost waiting for the night.
I scoop him up. Wings spread, a flash
of rosey stripes. The waiting salesman
taps his polished shoe and waves me
to the driver’s seat. I turn my back and kneel
to brush my hand under the bumper
of a nearby truck where my rescue climbs
to fold its crimson once again
into a silvered sliver and rests there
in the shadows
plain and tight as prayer.
Quetico in the Moonlight
The roof of the tent is almost stained-glass,
a diffusion of shadows, ghosts
of pines beyond the netted window
standing their black watch
against the western crescent’s
silvery spread and stars’
bright net above. Silence,
punctuated by a soft lap of lake
on rocks and a flat plunk–
something slapping water. Close.
Then, far off, wails, calls
like the voices of lost lovers, roll
across the surface of everything. You
could believe it a dream conjured
in the half-light of your city apartment
to be tossed away into the dawn
were it not for the hum of tiny wings
beating against the screen beside your face,
or the small sting on your neck.
A buzz, while off in the dark another slap
resounds as beaver go about pushing
logs to the stream. A breeze
brushes soft branches
into a rush of whispers,
and the loons’ distant moans and yodels
echo on, as you know they will,
long after you return home.
Louise Barden is a prize-winning poet, recognized this summer by Calyx Press for the Lois Cranston Memorial Prize for Poetry. She previously won the North Carolina Writers’ Network chapbook contest (for Tea Leaves), and the Southwest Review’s 2017 Marr Prize (finalist). Her poems have been published in Chattahoochee Review, Timberline, and elsewhere. She has recently been lured from North Carolina to Oregon by grandchildren.