By Janine Joseph (2009 Fellow)
Putting down the beets, you got to thinking my life had dead-ended
and were serious, and I agreed—But first I need capers
and whatever’s past the pimentos, I said and scanned the list. I needed the lemon glaze, the stuff I craved down the ethnic lane
and still I had to sing of how I walked a thousand hot miles
because my mom was Catholic and pressed the white blouse, the blue
jumper, and we were good people and good people lent their good
cars to those in more need. It was like the distance from here
to the Philippines, I nodded. I MapQuested it once. And they—
my brothers—were all eyes on their Game Boys, dodging potholes,
snake holes, and ant hills from St. Francis to who-knows-where we lived.
We walked so much my dad every night kneaded the stiff backs
of our shoes so they wouldn’t peel scallops on our heels when we walked
lesson after lesson without turning an ankle. What wrecks we were! What
expert wrecks burning down those sun-spun streets. Now look
how I muscle my stack of avocadoes and hearts—see how I coast and carve
and fault my rootless cart. See how I course my arm to say go
and go. Do you wait for me? Do you circle the lot’s quiet loop
while I lift into a run like a dog dead and slipped from her leash?
Do you brake? Do you idle? Do you whir your arm from an aisle
like a table saw saying come, come? I’ve a line to beat and no
double coupons so do you strike up your shoes? Do you barehand
your grief and pump its slack lap after lap after me? Come bred
roadster, come American galloper. Come bark this breath out with me.
“Landscape with American Dream” first appeared in The California Journal of Poetics (issue 1).