These days she can’t discern
if she is moving toward something
or away. Airline itineraries
don’t help: To go north, sometimes,
she must first travel west.
And all the time she feels lost
on arrival. When one home replaces
another, does the body ever find rest?
Accustomed to being just gone,
she has forgotten the solid pain
of being present and at every gate
her greeters wait for her absence.
She likes it best in the air–
going anywhere–the checkerboard
pattern of the earth shifting
slowly beneath her. North, East,
South and West, she would smash
the compass glass if she could.
How wonderful to be just leaving,
always about to arrive.
Finding Home for J.M.
In Santa Monica she held
a string of beads to her throat
and I told her the blue
matched her eyes and the green
her tattoo, that dragon etched
into her foot. Years later,
she wrote me long letters
on cream paper in seasoned ink
telling of temptations,
her pain, and of its escape.
When I asked her to come home,
when I tried to persuade
the gold-craggy coast out
of her, she only said
New Jersey had gone gray.
She left behind our bare
beaches for the sunlight
that bleached her blond hair,
and slept on someone’s
rooftop for a month,
her face brightened
by windburn not sunshine.
But she was steadfast
about never coming back
to the winters she left
behind, and now that things
have gone bad again, I can’t reach
across the broken-bottle blackness
between us to bring
her home. California
is no place for her to settle
down, the bluest water
still deep enough to drown in.
In the hour before dark, a woman sits
on her front porch watching the geese
head south. She can’t endure
the ritual departure much longer
and feels, on her porch swing, unsafe
as if she is dangling and ready to fall.
If she dreams tonight, it will be of apples,
late in season, trees heavy with red fruit
too cumbersome for bent branches
to cling to any more. In the morning
the hard ground will be littered with them
and, if the air is right, she’ll pack a bag
and leave this town. She’s not running,
but winter is coming and this year has been
without tangible harvest. Maybe she’ll drive
far enough to find an orchard just in blossom–
fruit not nearly ready to be picked, consumed.
There, with the sound of wings overhead,
she will find a place to start from.
She wants to be more tree than fruit.
She wants to bear the weight of each
season and then be able to just let go.
Christine E. Salvatore’s poetry has recently appeared in The Cortland Review, The Literary Review, and The Edison Literary Review, and she is the recipient of a 2005 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. She received her MFA from The University of New Orleans and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Writing at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and teaches English and Creative Writing at Egg Harbor Township High School.