Rick Strong teaches composition at the University of Akron and
is a third year student in the NEOMFA. Rick's work has appeared
in Angle: A Journal of Arts + Culture and The Akros Review. He
was a medical defense attorney before coming to his senses and
making room in his life for writing.
Alone in Sausalito,
nice window seat in the Bridgewater Cafe,
I crack crab claws, smelling iodine
as I finger pull the meat
and nurse an Anchor Steam draft.
The low moon stripes the Bay.
A scuzzy chop follows the dance boat
turning a circle around Alcatraz,
back toward the City.
The Bridge lights the way to Berkley
where I have work tomorrow.
You are three hours east of here-
the moon must be higher,
topping the frame of our bedroom window,
ahead of the cloud deck
moving in weather channel green
on a big monitor behind the bar.
I scan faces and imagine stories:
a table of retired locals,
comfortable enough to laugh like kids;
the young couple with dad's boat
tied at the end of the pier;
two guys dressed like pirates
who rode in on a Harley.
Turned back to the window,
reflected face, pale, corporate hair,
I think of the California moon,
twenty years earlier, as we left
my brother, his wife and baby
in the Central Valley and drove west
into the foothills of the Coastal Range,
deep tans, long hair, cut offs and tank tops.
Through Los Padres Forest on a dirt track,
in the heat, windows down, no air in that bug,
we saw deer, a coyote and some military guys
skinny dipping with dates
in the only creek we crossed all day.
The hills turned black and a great horned owl
made us drive around his post in the middle of the road.
You said the fires must have made him crazy.
As we started the switchbacks into the Santa Lucias,
a cougar exploded out of the burnt hillside,
cleared the road in a leap,
and disappeared into the rocks.
The sun fell below the ridge,
and on the turns, we caught the full moon rising.
We took water from a jug and I gripped
your thigh when I wasn't shifting.
When the road narrowed, we hugged
the wall blasted from granite
and bent forward to see the gravel path.
Our lights cut cones into dark sky
and we could smell the ocean.
Then, the moon again,
spilled out over Big Sur Estuary
two thousand feet down to our left.
I can't remember what we said
but know we talked
through the adrenalin and vertigo
until we crested the ridge and low-gear
coasted down to Highway 1.
Our tent, backed by the wall of an old growth redwood,
flooded with moonlight through open flaps.
I held you in our bag against the cool Pacific breeze.
I dreamed of flying and you of big cats
until we opened our eyes to the calls
of steller jays and scarred elephant seals in the cove
as they bellowed the moon's drop into the sea.
Riding down into Carroll County,
window breeze kiting bud husks
and scent of field-spread winter dung.
The road leads to Little Mountain
where shots cracked
the day we celebrated
the Dead with wood piled
under October sun.
A headless goose hangs
in a wire fence, wing splayed.
A three-legged raccoon
rises on hind limbs regarding
the beaked orb in his paw
like a masked Hamlet.
Hungered by a bleeding sunset,
painted faces underlit by flame,
we danced around the pyre,
then broke with torches downhill
across cornfield stubble
until we found the road.
Backseat children pointed
and startled parents denied
the goblins leaping
from swales and along the berm.
Food passed hand
to hand and wine sprayed
through sinsimella clouds
at the sliver moon, dropped west,
a wolf tooth jarred
from its socket, amulet
over our ceremonies.
I reach the turnoff marked
by the split boulder, shed
from the last glacier,
and see twenty year trees spining
the switchback drive.
I shift up and continue
south toward the river
and its scarred, bent fish.
A piebald deer stares
over his shoulder
as I accelerate
and seal the windows.
belly full sassy
my dad played air
harmonica hands cupped
voicing the chords cross
stepping a jig
from kitchen dishes
to his TV chair
he was a railroad
man muscled from heaving
coal into an engine maw
while his father grew
fat piloting passenger
runs to chicago
steam fell to diesel
and dad worked the valley
mills pulling hot steel
buckets under red skies
or running freight down
to lisbon or up to randall
sometimes the train roared
right through our house
blew us up against the wall
shaking until the rumble faded
after we waited wished
for funky sweet chords
from the air harmonica
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