50 MILES EAST OF NEW ORLEANS

BETH GORDON

 

You ask me the same question at daybreak in this cottage blanketed
with palm fronds and kudzu like kissing cousins, as I brew the dirt-soaked
coffee and flavor it with Irish crème as if we were not 700 miles from
the kitchen where we met, at mid-morning as I rinse my hair in a greenish
copper sink and put on the shirt and shorts I wore the last three days,
walk fresh-tarred streets waving to strangers because I know their names
and stories before they say a single word, across salt-bleached planks
of the pier built after Katrina swept half this town away, place my toes
onto the damp sand, the arches of my feet cradling each grain like my babies
now grown, at noon when you meet me in the bar three stories up, drink
our gin or rum or aged tequila with lime beneath the ever-twirling fans
and you photograph my face to show me how my skin changed color
when we crossed the county line, at mid-afternoon when I sleep in the bay,
floating with the memory of a sea turtle, no danger of sinking, of gasping
for air, and when we return, walk past blackened tombstones and old oak
trees, Spanish moss caressing the tips of our sunburned ears, every evening
when I open the wine, something cherry-drenched and Italian, as red and soft
as my sad woman’s heart, every night as I spin and spin and spin beneath
the Mississippi moon, laughing as if I have forgotten the tears that follow me
everywhere I go, you ask me as I close my eyes to dream again of seaweed
and lightning, knowing I will wake with no answer, still far from journey’s end.

 
 

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