West of the Soul
My soul, why are you still seventeen
and drifting like a dog after dark,
dragging a shadow you've found?
Put it back where it belongs,
and that bend of river, too. That's not the road
you want, though you could have it to yourself
at this late hour. Gone are the cars
that crawl out of the desert from the reactors,
a parade of insects, metallic, fuming
along that Stygian four-lane street.
The poplars of the shelterbelt lean away
from the bypass that never had much to pass by,
neighbor to rabbit brush and coyote.
From my parents’ patio on the edge
of the upper world, from a lawn chair
left for a shade, we once saw neighborhoods
of stars light years away, light years ago.
Pinpricks stabbed in a map too dark to read—
listen. That hissing is just a sprinkler
damping down the latest layer of dust.
Soul, why do you always take the graveyard shift?
The cottonwoods shiver, or I do,
every leaf rustling as if it's the one
about to tear itself from the past, not I.
Debora Greger’s most recent book of poetry, God, was published by Penguin in 2001. Her new collection, Western Art, will be out from the same house next fall. Her work also appeared in AGNI 57 and numerous previous issues.