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North Fork

Shirley Stephenson

This is the part of Texas my father loved
in the rearview, but we need
halfway points. A factory's grip
on marshland, hound dogs and booze bottles
lapping at the shore.
You showed up seven hours late
because Lamesa fell between pages
of a gas station atlas.

I couldn't have guessed
your need for detail. Mosquitoes
settled like ash. You asked
if I'd rather have love or desire.
A few states back,
you never would have separated one
from the other. Now we lose entire townships
in the crease of a map.

Thirty-six hours and again we split
at the north fork. I want to know if the kiss
blown like an afterthought
was yours. Sap clouds my windshield.
Why not cry. Why not pitch this
low-note, blues strumming soundtrack
to the breeze? I fishtail

over slick concrete, yet a house carries on
ahead, WIDE LOAD
swaying in the rain, yellow flags
aflutter with warning. A family follows
with pets and linens, doubtful
such weight can be carried the long haul.

From this flatland stretch of swamp
and big sky, it's easy to see
how anything lifted
from its foundation will shudder,
split and suffer the transport.

Shirley Stephenson

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