onion rings

Sun burns into the scalp, and I

realize I’ve forgotten

my hat – a brown straw hat, picked up

for three dollars in Nuevo Laredo – made just

for this sort of burning, Tex–Mex sun.  Now,

a cool wind glides in from the west,

carries the scent of onion rings

or fried dough, from the town

center, beyond the trees.    See the patterns

as the silent wind brushes

the surface of the lake? Just allow the cool wind

to wash past, over the water. It continues

through the chain–link fence

on the other side, through the Snickers wrappers

and the hemlock branches. The needles tremble

on their stems, as particles of sand swirl

from the surface of the black top. Still,

it glides between the legs

of the vacancy sign, over a silver SUV,

lifting three dried leaves up

between the chipped white balusters of the railing

where a man in a red tie and blue–striped shirt

pounds on the faded yellow door

of room 212.  Can you hear the tinkle

of the Price Is Right, spilling

through the cracked window?  A woman

in a white robe ignores the pounding

on the door, ignores the drone

of the Showcase Showdown, even

the sinking feeling in the pit

of her abdomen, as she focuses all her attention

on the nail brush in her right hand.  Her toes

stretched apart by synthetic cotton cylinders,

red paint glides silently across

the thick cartilage, like a breeze across the surface

of a silent lake. Can you smell the paint,

acrid and strong? Or is it the onion rings,

in the nostrils of the man who

has forgotten his hat.  And perhaps,

I am that man.  Perhaps, I only just left the woman

at the motel, narrowly escaping

the wrath of the husband now pounding on the door.

Or perhaps, I am the husband, desperately

pounding, as the world slips away. Or

am I just some random bystander, with no particular

connection to the unfolding drama?  And

isn’t that the axis of the difficulty?  We just don’t know,

confused by the shifting wind

of our own narrative.  What can I trust? The door

is locked, and the cool breeze

arrives with the faint smell of onion rings.










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