Caliche

In the Sonoran, the fickle desert rain
never comes when you need it—
but when the wind picks up, it pours itself out
empties itself of the black sky
rages down dry gullies and aching river beds
like a promise. Or a curse,
leaving behind caliche—white rock soil—
the ground which refuses to be tamed.

Tonight, after working for hours in our garden,
I pour myself a glass of red wine,
and look among our too-full shelves for something light to read
—a good story always takes the edges off the day.
From the other room, TV laughter fills the house.
Just then an almost forgotten book leaps from the top shelf,
drops near my foot.
Wedged between its pages, a fading Polaroid. Stuck.
On the back is a note penciled, long ago, by our teenage son:
Be Home in an Hour—
the top of each cursive“H,” noble curly-q’s and loops,
reaching up, hopeful and unafraid.
You call to me from the other room but
this photo takes me back—

It’s New York again with its endless winter.
We’re young and cold and out of work. Again.
Dark rings circle my eyes.  Your fake leather jacket
droops on your shoulders.
The baby cheeks are fever red. You’re rocking him on your hip.
At the unemployment office, the three of us inch our way on line
toward the window cage where the beaky nosed clerk
interrogates you,
while her pigeon eyes peck away at my skin.
So I drop both hands to my sides,
let her have her good look.
When I start to cry—whimper really—you whisper:
Don’t.

Volume 11.2 - December 2018

LOIS ROMA-DEELEY’S fourth poetry collection, The Short List of Certainties, won the Jacopone da Todi Book Prize (2017). Her previous poetry collections are: Rules of HungernorthSight and High Notes—a Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Roma-Deeley’s poetry is published in—or is forthcoming from—numerous anthologies and journals including, New MillenniumZone 3Spillway, and many others. Currently, she serves as Associate Editor of the poetry journal Presence. www.loisroma-deeley.com