2 Poems  

By Christopher Raley  

Kathyís Apron

The roads of Illinois are like the lines on Kathyís apron.
Theyíd be straight but for gentle swells of land.
They cut like seared iron edges into the thicker fabric
of green forests and bending corn fields.
The heat is heavy on it all.

Kathy works what she has worked,
rolling and cutting her world to existence.
The stoveís continual heat keeps sweat on her cheek
that bonds the straying strands of fading dust brown hair.
Sometimes she thinks the porch relief
and steps out to between the sheet of land and blanket of heat.
She toys with the hem of her apron,
but swears the roads she sees are so long
they can bare you forever.

Most nights I drink at Charlieís
where the young men are about talk.
We steal from moments of quiet, failing struggles
the last held brageries of strength
and pawn them out: age old imitations.
He sits at the bar, and donít think I havenít seen him.
His reflection behind the bottles stares out at him.
At first he tried to look away, but it followed him like a gossip.
Now he waits with elbows on the grimy wood
and earth blackened hand holding up his tired forehead.
One night I was drunk enough to care
and heard it ask him about the fields,
about the crop, about the hell of not making it
again and again.
I swayed standing and wanted to tell him about his wife,
how she comes out on the porch and watches for a chance to leave.
I could see myself on that stool living the life of worn out jeans and dirty flannel.
God help me.

Around here the wind rides up the bellies of thunder clouds,
pushes through trees and shakes them into frenzied life.
Itís all fury and strain until the thunder comes and shatters into rain.
The struggle fades and the heat returns over everything.

I can only chose what Iím given.
Anything can fill me up, blow right through me and leave me vacant again.
The porch is empty.
I donít see him at Charlieís anymore,
and some nights I pray theyíre gone as far as the west coast.
God help my beggar soul if Kathy ever looked into the field
and saw me watching, hands buried in the dirt, waiting.

Looks Like Fall Again I wouldnít have thought it in the morning, thunderheads up over the valley. Thick air rose from fields and the rain finally cut it late afternoon. You visited me last night, though I hadnít thought of you in months. All day the clouds tried to rain like they were squeezing some hidden thing. I drove up the valley belly, highway 45 cutting along the riverís path. I worked to northeast through the old roads. The sun sparkled moisture over the silos. Fall could be like this up north, and you too had your moods. But up there even breaks in clouds spoke of long, dark storms. The wind never let haze smear the colors, but they always fell suddenly. Dark days make dark nights. You know all the metaphors. Endless falling took me with it and I needed something else after a while. Sometimes on the highway in the mist of cars, headlights only showed me the rain. What is it you want? I think I know what you know, but conclusions we wonít have. We were close, but thatís not saying much. Some people just drive around for hours. I drive to get somewhere I havenít found. Why is it everytime I rest, you reach me?

Christopher Raley was born and raised in Chico, California and lives there currently with his wife and son. He lived in Salem, Oregon for five years and attended Western Oregon University in Monmouth. He began writing poetry shortly after moving to Oregon and has continued to grow in it. He also writes short stories and has recently taken some time off work to finish his first novel. He's had poetry published in several issues of Northwest Passage, Western Oregon University's literary journal.

Contact Christopher Raley at: christopher.raley@gte.net

March 27, 2002
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