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Red Eyes



Martha SerpasListen


My uncle offers a can of “coffee”
at seven in the morning, as he

disappears into his mint green truck—
the lakes he fished gather

tupelos and moss thick as his heart—
disguising its will as his, crickets

and the pop of the float reminding him
of the world’s insistent presence, though

by seven he’s done fishing, long done,
just driving into clouds of oyster dust—

leaving us to Green Stamp coffee cups,
cuccidata, iced pink and white,

from fat figs in her side yard, whites
on a clothesline, cats eating from pie pans

on the car hood, on the boat trailer,
the final metal snap like a crystal

dinner bell, or what she imagines a dinner
bell would sound like, or a baby’s voice.

In the photograph she slings an arm
like a sailor across her sister’s shoulder.

They have the Pop-Rouge-and-Moon-pie
grins of being-in-love. The itinerant photographer

maybe missing that, as they did maybe,
the multiplicities of romance. How can

those young girls pull down their step-ins
for a man? It’s bad enough …
she said, and

Get down and have some coffee, cher.
Here inside the checkered floor

glass-paned cabinets, you can see what
you need right inside, no lost time

on the green–spackled Formica,
chrome-wrapped table, dollies,

everything in easy reach—lighten,
sweeten, stir, smell, savor, and

drink, cher, you can tell me, wiped by a clean
towel with a crocheted and consecrated lip.

Millennial Birthday

My twenty-first my dad took me to Vegas
To play blackjack into dawn, swearing
we’d quit, then someone brings free seven-

And-sevens and a pack of Marlboro
Lights on a cork tray of swizzle sticks
And gold embossed napkins and how,

You think, could you have doubted
The abundance of the world, as
You tap the table for another card.

And that’s a good day—
After you stop going to therapy,
Which is, after all, strategy sessions

For winning the game you’re
Trying to quit. A good day
Is walking the dog beside the river,

When, among palmettos and
Ibises, I look squarely at the stiff
Red-tail knotted in the Kash-n-Karry bag.

There’s the osprey all alone
At the top of the spindly bald cypress,
And somehow I at once

Feel at home and at some other
Point, not faraway, but where,
In my memory, everything

Was bigger, the legs of the dining room
Table thick as these oak trees,
Shaggy, hard and magisterial.

I have lived where green things live
All year long and where snow becomes
The only color beside dull and gray and hard.

Now I live where buzzards winter.
In the mornings they flare their opera capes
And until night I must perform.

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