Destitute in Eunice
In Eunice no trees grow
There are sand hills
And as in Jal and Hobbs mistakes
As in Jal and Hobbs families mourn
Where we were five
One says now we are four
In Eunice wind shifts sand
But the hills do not leave
Mistakes are made people grieve
Where we were five we are four
Where he is we do not know
In Eunice no trees grow
I’d never seen anyone so lovely
I’d never been so lonely
She was the morning
A person could walk either up or down
She was the sun reflected off the bus
I called it the back path because it was
behind fenced in yards
There was no front path only streets and
There was sunlight warm enough not to
be wearing a jacket
E getting off the bus
Long dark hair, white top, skirt
I walked to the top of the back path and
saw E getting off the bus
Morning sunlight of students walking to
school, some with books in their arms
She was the corner filling station at River
Waiting for the light to turn green
If you walked up the back path you walked
from woods and a river behind it
She was the morning star and the light
shone in her hair as she stopped at the
If you walked down the path you walked
from River and Madison gradually towards
the woods and the river
E was the center of the morning she was
everything the back path the river behind
In a desert dugout the concrete
I mix with water
sloshes in a wheelbarrow.
It looks like clay with pebbles.
I lay flat stones on dirt.
Far from blacktop
and houses with running water,
I think of my friends who recently
held their stillborn son.
I slit bags of concrete with a hoe.
Rain has kept the ocotillos green,
with buds of purple and blue.
Outside the dugout,
yellow flowers on a hill.
He broke down twice on the phone,
another friend said,
yesterday, the day I came here.
Concrete dries my hands.
With a soaked rag I wash
the concrete film from stones.
I dip water from a bucket
and pour it into the wheelbarrow.
I slit another bag. Dust rises.
I pour more water.
With stones gotten earlier
from a creek-bed intact,
forty percent of the floor done,
I drive the five hours home.
They come with distractions to divert our attention
From the walls and floor, the open or closed
Door. Professor X locks the door so if you’re five
Minutes late you can’t get in. You’re lucky
There’s a window and you can look out
At stables where they keep the thoroughbreds.
The room has tinted windows, a projector, a white board.
If someone spills a grape soda on the carpet
And it stains, that’s a problem. I once taught
In a classroom with dark wood, windows
That opened on a slope of thick-leafed trees.
Many classrooms have no windows. You
Tell the students, the first day, we have
Green orange black brown purple markers. You
Pick one up and write their names on the board.
So when mom or dad asks them what happened today,
They can say, The teacher wrote my name.
Stand in the corner, don’t turn around
And face the class, I remember that. I liked
It when they dimmed the lights for a film
Of a short story—“The Sky Is Gray,”
“The Displaced Person.” I liked it especially
In the night classes, the room itself
Wrapping me like a warm cloak,
My attention on a peacock in a yard
In the film.
I was sitting in Miss Enright’s English class
When it came over the speaker: they shot JFK.
We all turned and looked up
To where the sound was coming from.
The gradebook closes at noon,
Friday, May 21st. As if the gradebook
were the big book, the life book,
something large enough to walk in
and out of. The gradebook closes.
That reminds me of
“The bar will close at two a.m.”
The bar, the church, the court,
the big store you walk around in,
up and down aisles for hardware,
linens. The gradebook gazebo
on the crest of a green hill. Gradebook,
a cave, a chapel of geologic
formations. The grades are stars
in the cave’s night sky:
A for friend, C for sibling,
B- for spouse, or for life partner
(as we’ve been reading in obituaries
recently). Why didn’t you
let your daughter keep the kitten
when you knew how that would please her,
Mr. Selfish? Each star in the cave
darkness equals a grade: one for regret,
others for mistakes, for kindness,
forgiveness, acceptance, and deceit.
What grade for being myself? you asked
your wife, who’d given the kitten
to a young fellow who named it Sky,
his own workplace nickname
at the furniture warehouse
of Hoffman and Koos.
Warehouse-large or locket-small,
the gradebook is open, and you look
into it. How am I doing? you ask
and expect a reply from the darkness.