As Walking In Fog
As walking in a fog, I am lost.
I see only what’s right in front of me,
laying down one foot then another,
hoping the ground will hold
as I sift feelings, rethink
what I said at the meeting
or later on the cell
What the hell were you thinking and
Don’t you have to tell him sometime
while wondering if I’ve made
the best use of my time.
Still, glances skid halls like expert skiers,
smiles are shared, even slaps on backs,
punctuated by harsh critiques …
So this is my life. But sometimes a clarity appears,
small rustlings heard in bushes,
gusts unwinding on the plains, particulars come into view,
I focus on the exact premonition that glows with detail,
even feathers, puts on airs,
it’s all I’d hoped it would be.
Spring deepens, the days are longer
offering the promise that I too
will be there for the event as it happens:
a storm rising in afternoon heat. There’ll be
streaks of lightning, thunder, driving rain,
it’ll be a clean sweep, and after,
things won’t be the same.
An unlined page stops me: did I write that?
Is that my intent that strides across,
projecting itself, like my face, my original statement,
or is it one more style I adopt,
to later toss like clothes to floor
when the time comes, and it will come.
The dominion of that moaning?
It’s wind taking the place of other wind,
groaning at eaves like a heart
grieving for what it could not hold,
you calling on the cell wondering
if I’m coming over again tonight.
We’ll have dinner, switch on a movie
and after that, who knows …
Dawn now announces itself, rose sky
advancing on retreating dark, your foot
touching mine, nothing sexual but reassuring
in this tiny world of pillows, sheets.
An inhale rises from earth’s small things,
dishes, journals, pics in old boxes,
soon-to-be commuters lifting heads like field grass
ready to portray their roles,
the dark that leveled the small city where I live
letting go to another day.
Night, enveloping and reticent, allows recovery, retreat,
but day, bright, involved, opens like a play.
It wasn’t the speed. And it wasn’t
the all night drive to the gulf to see her.
It wasn’t the spent coffee cups in my passenger seat
or the closed up gas stations when I needed gas or
the urgent voice of talk radio.
If the line I carved was from my life,
that was good, if it was for my life, even better.
From roadside strip malls waiting for tomorrow’s
big thrills to harsh words spoken and
thrown in the ditch, the public road was open.
Houses were dark. Reading clubs weren’t reading.
Last night’s hymns had faded into air and parishioners
who said see you next Sunday found a way back
to their place. In other words,
I was alone on that road,
I was allowed through.
And having arrived after those hours in the dark
I ask: what was that all about?
One minute I was speeding at a furious pace
and the next I am stopped wondering what is this place.
It so often happens that once on the road we take
we don’t know what we’re doing or what figure we make.
And just as freedom gives permission, sets us free,
we scrawl a line all the way to the sea.
Those Kind of Plains
She had a boyfriend in Dallas
but got rid of him. Now
she spends time sprucing up the place,
cleaning out the fridge, changing sheets,
wearing nothing under her robe
but her well-groomed tan,
and why shouldn’t she? I mean,
doesn’t she have specialized equipment
to face what comes …
Soon enough she’ll leave
for her shift at the hospital, maneuvering
those glances she invites with flirty lilts
and all the while she hurdles other memories
of what happened upstairs in the sleep rooms
where she played out scenes
and after, maybe a friend will call, invite her
to a party with all its throbbing voices and
spattered laughter as background
while she dips and sways to music,
maybe leave with someone and
go back to his place, who knows …
She loves intimacy with all its promise of warmth
as the afternoon deepens to dusk
but even if she sleeps with someone tonight
it wouldn’t ease her sense that she’s still back there,
walking the county road,
high wind moaning in wires,
her feeling of lostness on a broad plain.
Dale Cottingham is mixed race, part Choctaw, part White. He is a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year and is a finalist in the Great Midwest Poetry Contest. He lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.