(for my friend, Roxana Rivera)
They say it's the voice you forget first, followed next by the subtle intricacies of the face, like a photograph that blurs around the edges. But I can still remember the first time I saw her: just a scratch over five feet tall, brassy skin and a mop of sassy dark curls, strutting into workshop in Gucci boots and a checkered skirt. That voice, throaty and smooth as warm Cuervo, sharing poems that made us all squirm in our chairs.
She came all the way from Los Angeles to Carbondale, Illinois just to be alone and write poetry—she never counted on making so many friends. I remember how she struggled to tell us about the boy gunned down outside her house, to capture in words the sight of her father cradling his head, then the boy's gurgle when they asked if he was still alive and he tried to answer yes.
I remember how she dragged us to an obscure Mexican restaurant to speak Spanish with the waiter and introduce us to tamarind soda. When she asked me about Zen and got mad—even before I did—whenever someone suggested that haiku were easy to write. The shape of her mouth when she said Quetzalcóatl, flashing the world her pirate grin. That terrible pitching feeling when I heard she'd died in a car accident—just that morning while I was on the way to teach—her voice still haunting my answering machine.
visiting her grave
with nothing to say…
THE HARDEST TRAIL
A sign calls it the most rugged trail in the park—once padded by wood chips, overgrown now with trillium and sage grass, tree roots like petrified hair. We lace up our hiking boots and start up the hill, some of us gathering fallen branches from buttonwoods and cedars to use as walking sticks. Great mossy boulders the size of three story buildings dominate the landscape. We pass beneath archways of limestone carved with the names of hikers and young lovers—some bearing dates as old as two centuries ago. The fresh, throaty chortle of wild turkeys fills the shadows beyond the trees, accented by the trilling melody of whippoorwills. No one speaks. The trail bends left, then right, then back again, speckled with poison ivy, snaking its way up like a haphazard stairway to the clouds. Hours later, we stand together after a hard climb, our bare arms gilded by the blushing sun, our bodies glazed in sweat. Then we start down again. In the parking lot, we check each other for ticks. Some strange new intimacy fills us as we run fingertips over damp skin and hair. Piling into cars, we drive back to the city, changed in a way we do not yet understand.
overwhelmed by the smell
of cherry lifesavers
Michael Meyerhofer's book, Leaving Iowa, won the Liam Rector First Book Award
and is forthcoming from Briery Creek Press. He is also the author of two
chapbooks: Cardboard Urn and The Right Madness of Beggars. His work has
appeared in Arts & Letters, Green Mountains Review, Fugue, North American Review,
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and elsewhere.