I remember Nashville, the dueling piano bar

overlooking Broadway, the loud row
of honky-tonks and bachelorette parties,
where a middle-aged couple from Oregon
sat next to me—a young, lone, woman traveler,
and asked if I was sad. Holding my beer
between my hands, I said, nice as I could
you don’t even know me, thinking how this
is America: country songs and assumptions
about what percentage of people there that night voted
for Trump, and this woman whose bucket list
had on it The Indy 500, an event from my
home state I didn’t know people put on bucket lists,
the man put his hand on my back like I was his
daughter, this question they would never
ask a man seated with himself, they never learned
they were chatting with a queer gal, that I love
bright lights and coffee ice cream, I said instead
I was a poet in town for the night en route
to a wedding in Alabama. We bonded over
the Northern California town of Ukiah
with a Buddhist temple where they used to live
and the next town south from the farm where I worked
my 29th summer. I wondered then as I wonder now:
are you not sad? You meaning them, the couple
on vacation, with the immigration laws and dreamers,
that racist, sexist election, this new land
of continual disconnection, do they not sink when
the news tugs their ear lobes, sticks its tongue
inside? Some nights I talk to no one
but children stacking rocks on Lake Superior
while fireworks blast across the water, and I
shouldn’t have to tell you that I see the explosions
of flowers before I hear the boom, but I do.
See it, that is, then hear it: five-second delays
for a live broadcast. Their mother says the rock towers
are called cairns and used to help travelers hiking on trail
know they were on the right path. And I don’t look up
to tell her, in honest amazement, I had only
just told that to a teenage girl two days before.
Instead I fumble picking up my pen, a lone, young,
girl taking notes on fireworks on the day after
the Fourth of July. I don’t say anything
except when I notice the ten rock towers this girl
has built—those are amazing—and repeat it
when she doesn’t hear me—those are awesome
as if the way she stacks it all up just might save us all.

 

Volume  11.2 - December 2018

Maggie Graber is a queer poet from the Midwest. A Luminarts Cultural Foundation Fellow, her poems can be found in The Louisville Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Adroit Journal, Rhino, Hobart, and elsewhere. Find her online at maggiegraber.com.