TIM STALEY – A POEM FOR LANCE

DOOMSDAY JOGGING
(for Lance Leonard Gambrell)

Imagine a book
open to the black
depth of the universe.

Death is a wave of sound
you can’t wave off.

Sometimes instead of Lance dying
I imagine the tracks of a train
Vaselined and lit from behind
like an X-ray.

Sometimes instead of him dying
I imagine a steel-blue deity with 18 arms.
I guess 18 arms is how many arms it takes
to headlock something wrong.

I’m likely to round up a common stain
into a regional one or worse: a personal one.

The catch of crying is crying
kills bacteria, releases toxins,
improves vision.

Every white, elastomeric rooftop
in this desert town is haunted
by the dusty fingerprint of rain.
So much dust and blood work
between each papillary ridge.
The desert takes its time
showing us things die.

I was walking the acequia with my daughter
when she told me polar bears
have clear hair.

I was walking the acequia with my daughter
when a jellyfish of photons
came smearing across the tracks,
softening the steel.

I had a vision I went to see him
near the end in a hospital bed.
The walls were smoking
and we were playing dominoes
on a swiveling tray. It was horrifying,
I was still trying to win.

Lance writes poems on pizza boxes.
He gets to stay alive
a little while longer.

Last night tight ropes of light
crossed behind his eyes.
I wasn’t there. I was at home
looking for a dollar.

Last night in the pocket
of a yellow pillow, the tooth fairy
found my daughter’s 11th tooth.
The fairy came with a dollar,
dressed in mirage
except for his flip flops.
I heard in Mexico it’s a rat that comes;
it’s a rat that trades your tooth for cash.

I was walking the acequia with my daughter
when I told her polar bears have clear hair
because the air around those hairs
scatters light of every color
in every direction.
You could tell by her face,
the laws of light
were a let down.

Imagine a book
open on a table
only instead of pages
the black depth of the universe.
Now imagine
sunlight all spread out
on that same table.

Can you see him on a Tuesday in February?
Can you see him leaning
into the needles of wind like a vein?
Can you see him?
He’s walking there with me down Boutz
toward Avenida de Mesilla.
His curls so blond
they mirage.

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