The Territory Ahead
In the yard, Rita finally decides the word "affair" is sensuous
and implies moral and ethical decisions; she thinks
this links her refined sensibilities with the very laws of nature,
and her soul feels lighter as she scavenges keys.
She finds them asleep. Rita sizes up the other woman
who isn't exotic like the ones she knows he likes in those lingerie catalogs...
Rita frowns to think of the summer before last (the good one)
when she and Leon drank cold sangria and counted planets.
Rita’s dark mouth of berry grows queasy
from invisible denials and undeniable vision.
She squints to see whether the woman’s breasts are huge,
notes the pastrami at Nico's has challenged his waistline,
and realizes that she didn’t know why she wanted to come.
But she wasn't quite certain that she wanted to go.
Rita sees them stir and leaves with the economical lightness of a bird.
In the car she longs for amnesia,
begins to feel the opulent, enveloping shape of love
by way of the spacious hole it leaves when it goes.
Her feet on the gas pedal urge her into the world
where the night is crisp and violet and full of sudden secrets.
Rita Drives Cross-Country
Singing the blues against linear thought
of yellow line and Leon.
Only this language of moans coming through
the headphones is relative to her experience.
She passes fat, slick cattle and haystacks
until her eyes glaze and see nothing.
Lightnin’ Hopkins warbles “Trouble in Mind,”
and she is forced to belt out in minor key
since she never learned to dance, not on her feet.
Past the two elms in uneven rocks,
she thinks of those six weeks that were
mostly like all the others:
Leon came or didn’t come to her,
was brilliant or unwilling, struggled
or splashed through her arms without being touched.
Somehow, his words flashed through her like silverfish;
she thought she could not bear the power of love.
A twisted oak atop the western slope
reminds her why she runs.
What makes the engine go?
Desire. Desire. Desire.
Only one season and it was done.
Rita believed it was love he held
concealed in his closed fist;
Leon believed it was pleasure she gave
with tricks she taught herself to keep him.
They were each other’s rituals.
She picks up strays along the highway
where all the lakes are deep and ancient,
their trees’ white stumps mired in oily black,
and always the lone hawk waits above on the electric wire.
Driving here, there is
no-where to call home to, no one to tell.
—N. A’Yara Stein, Chesterton, IN