One More Town Too Far

Then I worked for an old lady in El Paso
            took down her storms put up her screens
            painted her fence
she kept finding new jobs
            said I resembled the boy she’d lost
            insisted I sleep in his bed
            the walls covered with posters
            X-Men The Gladiator Kate Moss
            clippings about boxing matches
I ate the food he liked drank lemonade
            the way she sweetened it for him
            peed in his pot wore his clothes till I thought
            I’d suffocate said I’d best be leaving
she couldn’t understand why
            what’s the hurry couldn’t I stay and paint her house
            before I left carrying that bag of cookies baked
            how he liked them chewy and heavy on chocolate chips
the last thing she had me do was
            plant dahlias beside his grave the soil
            cool and crawling with worms fingering light
is this deep enough I almost called her Ma
            staring into that bleak hole like I was back
            in my old bed Destiny’s Child playing loneliness
            so deep it was die or try outrunning it
I buried those tubers and bussed out of town
            my cheek stinging from her kiss
            each mile down another cookie crumb
            back to a hundred worn-out welcomes
            looking for a break in one more town too far.
Darrell Petska’s poetry has appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Star 82 Review, Verse-Virtual and widely elsewhere (see: Darrell has tallied a third of a century as communications editor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 40 years as a father (six years as a grandfather,) and almost a half century as a husband. He lives outside Madison, Wisconsin.

Photography by William J. Stribling