Free Hot Breakfast, Free Dreams
Next table over, a small child tells
his dream. Cereal spills
from his excitement. “And the ghost
is still asleep!” he crows
as his parents cradle silent coffee.
Or maybe it isn’t a dream.
Maybe the ghost is here, right
there in that empty chair,
sleeping through breakfast.
Does a ghost drink morning coffee?
I know I do. Thank God
for hotel breakfast, unlimited
refills, and nothing
on the schedule till noon.
On this summer Sunday, the room
fills with vacationers. I stare
at the local paper, something
about the economy, all the scores
from last night’s games.
There’s never enough coffee.
The room fills and fills.
No, I don’t mind if you join
me. My hair still
reeks of bar. The drummer’s
upstairs, asleep. Nice
middle-aged couple. I try to smile.
We’re on our way to Canada!
Road trips are such fun.
And you? I admit I’m here
for rock & roll and they falter,
smile gamely at my leather
jacket and my smudged
bleary eyes, look at the TV
glowing with importance
and the weekend sports.
He goes for juice. She fumbles
with her napkin. I spare us all,
get a paper cup to go.
Back in 422 the drummer
is rumpled in his bed, sleeping
like a ghost. The room fills
with the mumbling of ordinary dreams
and the light that gets in
where worn-out curtains fail to meet.
I let him sleep, sit silent
in the hovering morning. When he wakes
he asks me what city we’re in.
I can’t remember. The city
of hotel dreams, I tell him,
the city of bad curtains
and no love. He groans,
rolls over, gone again.
We’ve been here a thousand
times before with different
carpet, different drapes. The maps
all look the same by now.
Every night we sleep with ghosts,
chasing what we don’t dare name.
There’s never enough coffee.
Road Trip Showdown
She tells me she has miles
and maybe she will use them. She hangs up
the phone. These days, all I know
for certain is gray clouds on a Sunday,
the smell of coffee in a single cup.
If she made the flight, breakfast
would be an exercise in negotiation,
an accounting. Let’s hit the road
instead, I want to tell her, meet
in the middle, counting birds
on the wire. She tells me
she has miles, but I have distance
and I’m not afraid to use it.
Anyway, there are questions about cars.
The drive train, the music.
The landscape would roll by
undisturbed, Illinois, Missouri.
Diners and blue sky, the crumbs
of last night’s snack. Once we depart
that’s it, we’re trapped until tomorrow.
Better to do it the hard way: words
across the line. Better
to not be bodies, not yet.
It’s true, the words between us
are green and careful paths
It’s true this landscape
will wither, our separate fingers
tracing what fades. It’s a question
of opportunity, of desire.
It’s whether we trust this late light
to last, our bags
to reach their final destination.
In the end the silence suffers
every time, the conversation
stumbles, miles expire.
We stage a retreat on this rutted road,
a coffee-stained map
that’s given way, torn along the fold.
Intercepting the Supercell
The sky lowers like a belly,
black cloud-teats hanging,
the atmosphere green and prescient.
All day it’s been too still,
deadly calm. You stop your car,
sniff the air for hail. All winter
you’ve waited for this one,
starved for the feel of back roads under your tires
and the flat range of tornado alley
sweeping off to the horizon.
All day you’ve revised your forecast
again and again, plotted possibilities,
waited in diners and by the sides of roads,
listened to the pressure drop.
The first hot fat drops fall.
Wheat fields bend as if in prayer.
You squint into the sky,
check the readings again—and then
the sky just flattens, possibilities
dissipate, the rain begins
in earnest. It’s a bust; disaster,
if it happens, happens elsewhere.
Sodden, you roll up your windows
and drive, wipers on high,
still chasing the confluence.
—Anne Haines, Bloomington, IN