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Motel Makeshift Lullaby


ISSUE:  Spring 2008

When you scream again from the towel-padded drawer, I’m awake already,

listening to the snow-squall & semis leaning into night, to Lee Marvin

muttering one-liners next door, someone slurring Baby, I need some ice.
For an hour, I’ve heard you too, thrashing in your makeshift crib

just to feel, I think, your body move until you become inconsolable again.

Two counties from here, in Spillville, Dvorak once summered
with cold ale & Czechs, roosting in wild clover & cornflower seas,

in swelter crammed with joy, even when storms bellowed down

&, panicked, he’d batter the piano with whatever scherzo-like thing
seized his mind, trying to drown out what was coming, what was

fiercely already there. Little one, forget Dvorak’s thunder. Forget

this storm too, which thrashed us from the road & tonight stalls us here.
You’ve eaten but wail on, gripped by hunger of another kind. All I meant

to summon up in this menthol-stale room was a simple gladness:

steaming ocher mug, a smaller, swaddled you, both of us watching
rust-backed birds in thin dawn light scatter the clamoring finches,

& then watching what looked like blossoms spilling impossibly

from between two bricks until it became what it was: a hatch
of winged ants rising in waves, spiraling petal-like into sky.

Crossing the Iowa prairies, Dvorak found in the waving grasses,

in the sway & whorl of foxtail that let loose a rasping he loved,
sorrow he never explained. Or that he explains in his Dumky trio,

a piece shaped by Hungarian poems in which the melancholy must end

as a manic dance. Tonight, miles from any place I might want to be,
thinking of nights you’ll inherit, I clasp you tight, balloon you

through this mostly-dark, hobble to the music locked in my head

that is not some magisterial adagio, but the tune of staccato babble
that gave you, earlier today, a fluky shriek of joy: Boogie Boy Perkins’s

tenor-wild Ba Da. Why not? Dumka, Dvorak: any clump of sounds will do.

Ba Da tonight is your cradlesong, & what I whisper down to your head,
to your mother now tumbling back into sleep, into the smoke-stained

wallpaper of roses that twist into violets, weave back to roses again,

to our room’s tiny soap, to the ice-less couple next door. Song-of-want,
for all it’s worth, to your song-of-want—small dervish within this storm.

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