Seventeen summers on Mojave lawns,
more clouds than trees, more training jets
than flocks of birds.
I pretended to be a girl sculpting animals
in the air but never was. Shapes shimmered,
but before I could name them,
jets tore through. Sometimes the sonic boom
came as a surprise, but it was always
deja vu, image of God, breath held,
cheeks puffed out, then Boom—
they kept me on my toes. Even once
I understood speed and sound,
booms punctuated the days: school bus,
dinner table, bare feet cooling in the pool,
then gasp in the atmosphere
and Boom. Shatter. Like when I tried
to picture you, vague form I couldn’t
I got a ride to the city, signed in at the sterile
desk. A specter in scrubs said count backward
from 100. I came to,
Boom, the gurney wobbling, the hallway’s
sequence of fluorescent lights struggled
to resolve through tears.
--after Secretariat’s record-breaking Belmont Stakes, 1973
Whenever I think of
the big red colt
your chair turned toward the sliding glass door,
you watching the desert while you drank.
We asked, sometimes,
if you had been in the war, but Mama said
your heart was too big.
I was too young for metaphor, but adopted
your heroes, Rooster Cogburn, Man with No Name,
and now this horse,
the weight of whose heart
you never knew.
I was still twelve, and it was only June
when you carried your beer to the road,
paced off ten lengths, thirty-one,
explained velocity, objects in motion
tend to stay in motion,
how each action propels the next.
You stood on one line, sent me to the other.
I couldn’t make out your words
for the wind.
You hadn’t worked
all winter, but spun fables about outlaws
and Gila monsters. I cast myself in the role
of audience while my sisters
counted bottles, decided what to do.
Anyone could hear the crew
breaking down the scenery, first the foothills,
then the wheatfields. The water tower,
the whole Mojave folded flat,
petrified wood from the yard,
the sandy graves of all those dogs,
our whole world stacked neatly in a truck,
shrouded in tarps, hauled to a warehouse,
where it gathers dust still. Nothing
either of us could do,
you in your chair
one side of the window, me galloping
my little mare line to line on the other.
And now I'm serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime...
Indigo Girls –“Galileo”
My daughter stands between
the tombs of Michelangelo
The photo she sends is a gift.
She’s telling me she remembers
the book I chose
when we cleared my father’s
apartment, carried with me
all these years.
When he received the cloth-bound
collection he also unwrapped
a rock and a chisel. Artist was just one
of the myths in our Pantheon of one.
She thinks I treasure the book,
but what I really want
is an incantation
where I set fire to each color plate—
a charm to make her understand
what matters more:
the pair of front row tickets
she won, the two of us singing along
with the band,
remembering most of the words.
Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Nimrod, Quartet, Sugar House Review and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Fiddlehead, Tar River Review, and Red Rock Review. She received 2022 Pushcart nominations from Redactions and Red Rock Review, and was semi-finalist for the 2022 Pablo Neruda Awards Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates comes out this year—find more of her work at melodywilson.com.