Always Moving, poems by Tobi Alfier
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her chapbook “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) was published by FutureCycle Press. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” was published by Aldrich Press. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” is forthcoming from Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
On the Road in East Texas
Out in the lot, merciless sun gleams
on glass among gravel, like Mexican
Opals strung around the neck of the old woman
who will tell your fortune for two dollars
and ten minutes squinting—
her wobbly table and two ancient chairs
never find shade even on a covered porch.
You buy her a sweet tea, and one for yourself,
hope it will make your fortune sweeter,
but she cannot be bought. She has a lean
and sallow face, wrinkles deep as cutbanks
etch her eyes, her forehead creased
as an old pleated skirt as she thinks about
where to start, how much to tell.
You’re on your way from one crappy town
to another, where dirt isn’t whispered
even before you pass by. A place
where alley cats aren’t fed, while you stand
famished. Where you can breathe. All you want
from this vieja is a pin on the map,
a direction, an avoidance of fevers and hell.
Her brown hand wrinkled as her neck, she takes
yours. Her grip firm, she knows your heart even as
you try to hide it. You drink your tea, wish it were
moonshine, sweat like a fugitive, avoid her eyes.
Just give me a name, you think, I’ll make my own
destiny. Heat waves warp off the distant pavement.
She says a name. You get your map.
Heading Out, West of Winnemucca
Doors slam in the night.
The smell of shitty booze,
the sound of fools
Anywhere Tumbleweed Motel—
windsock limp over the Vacancy
sign. I hone my anger
in the dusty mirror.
Neon sizzles. Diner opens
at 7am. Clouds like cotton
throw shadows, hide broken glass
from fights long forgotten,
just last night. Somebody aching
to leave worse than I
already labeled my coffee cup—
I don’t wear that shade of whore pink.
When the sky is arctic blue
there is a silence, the kind
that hangs in the air after a slap.
Takes me back too many years,
too many miseries,
vague, like a story re-told in
half-sleep. Radio on bible or off,
I get the hell gone.
Grace Over the Harbor
We strolled out into the clean smell of nightfall,
she whistled an aimless tune under her breath.
We had just met, but felt like we’d known each other
forever and more. Our hands lightly touched
as we watched the moon begin to shoulder
the tops of trees. This was where I wanted to be.
I learned the hard way—you can’t negotiate
the terms of forgiveness with a bitter angel.
I let that one go, waited for someone new
to come when I glanced the other direction.
I swear these towns, the looks of them
say there are sorrows worth keeping
but I say no. Let the ocean wash them far, just
as the breeze and the quiet song I could barely hear
washes me. Silhouettes of boats rest
in the sundown harbor. One called New Chances
has red sails. Tomorrow we’ll see it together, sails set
and aglow, gliding through the early morning light.
Mornings at the Stadt Café
The waitress knew:
he took his coffee light,
and he took it early.
This visitor, boots muddied,
neck turning brown with the sun,
strolling the cobbled streets
through fields to the roads
of his imagination.
A broom smelling of cinnamon
on a wall every texture of brown
takes him back. The next
village over in any direction
has that same smell, those same textures.
Mutter’s cottage. When as a boy
they went on break from school.
Now a bakery. Still, the fragrance
the same as the underside
of Greta’s hair, Her farm-girl beauty
fragile as a wilting wildflower,
her embroidered apron with pockets
holding kuchen wrapped in handkerchiefs,
He could write his whole story
each morning at the Stadt Café,
but ventures out instead to read
the next chapter among the grasses
and crumbling sheds, the dark soil,
the remembered earth.
© Tobi Alfier