At the Padre Hotel in Bakersfield, California
It's Saturday night and all the heterosexuals
in smart little dresses and sport coats
are streaming into what we didn't know
was the hottest spot between Las Vegas and LA.
Janet and I are in jeans and fleece --- not a tube of lipstick
or mascara wand between us. Grayheads:
a species easy to identify without a guidebook ---
the over-the-hill lesbian couples of the Pacific Northwest.
Janet's carrying our red-and-white cooler with snacks for the road
across the marble tiles of the Art Deco lobby
when we turn and see the couple
entering through the tall glass doors, slicing
through the crowd like a whetted blade. The butch
is ordinary enough, a stocky white woman
in tailored shirt and slacks, but the confection ---
no, the pièce de résistance --- whose hand she holds
is of another genus entirely.
Her cinnamon sheen, her gold dress
zipped tighter than the skin of a snake.
And her deep décolletage, exposed enough for open-heart surgery.
She's a yacht in a sea of rowboats.
An Italian fountain by Bernini.
She's the Statue of Liberty. The Hubble Telescope
that lets us gaze into the birth of galaxies.
Oh, may they set that hotel room ablaze --- here
in this drab land of agribusiness and oil refineries
outdoing Pittsburgh as the top polluted city in the nation --- trash it
like rock stars, rip up the 300 thread-count sheets,
free the feathers from the pillows.
And may that grande femme be consumed
right down to the glitter on her sling-back four-inch stilettos
and whatever she's glued on her magnificent skin
to keep the plunge of that neckline from careening clear of the curve.
§ § §
Ode to FishNights when I can't sleep, I listen to the sea lions
barking from the rocks off the lighthouse.
I look out the black window into the black night
and think about fish stirring the oceans.
Muscular tuna, their lunge and thrash
churning the water, whipping up a squall,
storm of hunger. Herring cruising,
river of silver in the sea, wide as a lit city.
And all the small breaths: pulse
of frilled jellyfish, thrust of squid,
frenzy of krill, transparent skin glowing
green with the glass shells of diatoms.
Billions swarming up the water column each night,
gliding down at dawn. They're the greased motor
that powers the world. Shipping heat
to the arctic, hauling cold to the tropics,
currents unspooling around the globe.
My room is so still, the bureau lifeless,
and on it, inert, the paraphernalia of humans:
keys, coins, shells that once rocked in the tides ---
opalescent abalone, pearl earrings.
Only the clocks sea-green numerals
register small changes. And shadows
the moon casts --- fan of maple branches ---
tick across the room. But beyond the cliffs
a blue whale sounds and surfaces, cosmic
ladle scooping the icy depths. An artery so wide,
I could swim through into its thousand-pound heart.--- From Like a Beggar
©2014 Copper Canyon Press