Lindsay Wilson


Holly leaves duane for Nevada

                    Don’t move to Nevada, I go. You’re talking crazy, I go.               

                    I’m not talking crazy, she goes. Nothing’s crazy about Nevada.
                                                   

                                                                                                     —Raymond Carver

 

                                                                Daniel Gohman

                                                              Daniel Gohman

After I left Duane, it bloomed Nevada.

Out there, on the open road, free

of leaf-light, I understood the many miles

to somewhere else, and I believed

in the way a heart slows like a stone,

basalt, something volcanic that once

enjoyed a great flight, and now lays half-buried

in the dirt waiting for the land to chew

it down and give it back to its bright-hot

arch like firework blossoms over

a crappy minor league baseball field,

under primordial high desert clouds,

thunderclap, bat-crack, the heart holding

its breath until the ball falls past our gaze,

peanut shells breaking beneath our exit.

On the drive home I saw Nevada

in the hills on their knees like a man

begging for forgiveness. There’s no difference

between praying and begging except who

we ask for help. Nevada in the crucified

coyote nailed to the keep-out fence. Nevada

tugging on the chopped tails lifting

for a breeze, dismembered tricksters

by the wind toppled statue of Mary,

the snake’s rattle slipping into her fractured belly

because no on believes in virgins

in Nevada, not even by the gazebo

at the old cemetery where a deep humming

seems to roll out of the distance,

and the evening shakes Nevada free

from its day-drunk nap. Listen, from the severe

cemetery hill, I watched a dust devil

twist like a rope falling from the shop-rag gray

clouds. I knew I could climb to that hole

in the sky if I wanted to leave this one, that the only

myths here stretched out in their pine boxes,

so none of them could pin me down

and show me the borders of myself,

and then Nevada seemed to rise beating its wings,

as if to say, if you still wanted to, now,

you finally could leap. 


A bride opens the curtains

                    Twin Lakes, Mammoth, California

 

before her wedding, and the camera captures her

second-self’s white lace reflection on sun-warped glass,

 

and through her you can see the pine trees swaying

in their long-green dresses, and through them

 

you see the Twin Lakes, and the way water grants us our wish

of seeing wind, and through its ripples you find

 

the polished blue stones the lakes have chewed down

into their bellies where the night’s throat breaks open

 

to a groom pacing in his rented black suit practicing

his vows until his words muffle into a kind of prayer

 

that reminds you of how much of this world we cannot own.

This cabin. These twin lakes. This body. These words

 

rising from their mouths to drift across this suddenly

still mirror of water reflecting all that matters in this world,

 

and you understand you must memorize this to keep

it with you. If you could hold these vows like the smooth

 

stones scattered here in their common currency, if

you could take a hammer to this mint of rich words

 

and break through this granite, this river rock,

you would find me sitting on the last folding chair

 

in the corner, tie undone around my neck, and as the caterer

sweeps up this confetti of rice, I am already studying

 

tonight’s photograph, already looking for the words that open

the shutter to let through the light of this world’s twin.


The smell of something green burning with something dead

 

In your first childhood dream of the west,

out past the fenceless backyard where the foxtails

ready their teeth to sink in to you, Grandpa,

in his maze of tall corn and okra, is raking

the weeds with the day’s trimmings into his daily

pile of fire, the smell of something green

burning with something dead, smoke lifting

above the plants you can’t yet see beyond,

and then you’re running again to the irrigation ditch,

that stand of wild undergrowth, cap gun in hand

for the garter snakes.

 

                                   One day you crouched

for hours watching what sun the weeds let through

write patience across your skin, while you listened

for tails slipping through the tattered brush

until mother came calling. You needed her to feel

that small stalk of doubt take root before revealing

yourself. How easy to part the wild grasses

and step into another life, or so you thought,

a stick with a bag tied to the end, one clean white shirt,

a juice harp, and the memories of that past life

gathered into something behind you, something

needing just a spark to make into a fire, into

a signal, for someone like you out there, staring

into the distance, waiting for a sign.

 


Lindsay Wilson is an English professor at Truckee Meadows Community College where he co-edits The Meadow. His first collection is No Elegies, and his recent poems have appeared in Stirring, The Raleigh Review, The Missouri Review Online, and The Carolina Quarterly. Currently he is serving as Poet Laureate of Reno, Nevada.