At breakfast, in the Three Bears Restaurant
in West Yellowstone, while eating a huge cinnamon
roll, I overhear the man in the booth beside us
talking to his wife:
“This is like back in the time of Noah…”
And who can argue with that sweetly innocent view?
This over-fed, jovial, born-again Alabaman
with his baseball cap,
eager for the day before them:
They’ll shove the buffalo on the Arc,
along with the elk and glistening dragonflies.
Later, we stand before the bubbling,
glittering pots and pools, an iridescent
mat of pinks and blues structured
by hydrothermal microbes.
People have died in these scalding pools—
20 to be exact the plaque reads, God bless
their souls, those who couldn’t resist the pull
of these clammy, salmon-colored, marbled flats,
like tiles, my daughters says, always
one for a good kitchen remodel.
The girl who couldn’t stand the weeds
in our backyard, who was disgusted by our blown-
about shingles, stands in awe.
There are hats to prove it. I mean, hats blown off
that you can’t retrieve or you’d die,
sink into these scalding mud pits, this boiling quicksand.
The hats—a cowboy, a straw sun hat, like I wear, a baseball,
and a Hawaiian
bucket—rest on the cracked and creviced surface beside
pink bones bubbled up from the underworld.
It’s raining and we’re covered in jackets, ponchos, and even
trash bags. Kids run in their jelly shoes, slapping
the wet boardwalk. The porta potties are our first
I grab the notes from breakfast, hastily
written on purple Post-Its, wordy
recommendations about the volcanic
Earth beneath us, the blistering score of these
turquoise pools that look like fancy whirlpools for the elite,
scribbled notes about the process involved in creating
Sometimes I Feel Scared
Where to begin, where to begin…
The snow, the snow, a marbled pattern,
pitter patter still melt pitter
I can’t explain why rain.
I’m not coy; I’m complicated:
spinning in the vehicle, the floodgates, hydroplane, windowpanes, smudge.
Yours? Mine? Yours? Mine?
We were so greedy, money in our hands, coins.
You said the emperor had no clothes
or was that you, naked?
“What’s up, Virginia?”
I dreaded telling the truth.
I read the story
about the mother who wanted to tell her daughter a fairy
tale—thick hair like thorns,
a red-robin robe, of course against the snow
running away, running away
to the grandmother’s house through a forest. A wolf, a wolf, many wolves.
But back to the story, back to the story.
A barn, far away, under snow.
I find all this ridiculous, you fool, you creature,
vomiting on the wet ground,
puking your guts out,
There was shame in wanting too much
from the cosmos—each plant, lover,
the divine touch of Davinci or Campi
with his earth, sky, land, and sea. I wanted
the pig’s bladder blown up like a balloon
and the lushness of the dimpled grapes,
the crisp look of the dead pheasants flung
over a shoulder, as well as conchs and seaweed.
Pizza at the bar—I wanted that, too—
Buffalo mozzarella wasn’t enough, nor was flirting
with the wildly vagrant figment of my imagination
or your ghost. But back to the real.
Shame for my longing, flummoxed, at the gate,
grasping my old suitcase.
Thinking what? When? Buying chocolates
with windmill packaging because I felt
I had to. Then littering in the bathroom, but it’s not
littering when you take things with you. Sit
in Gate F-5, like some boring meeting. Wrap
your souvenir in fractals,
warped shapes, logos, a reason, and logic.
I can’t imagine this; I’ll keep turning it in my pocket.
They say she cries out for her favorite sister, but Judy—my mother—is dead.
Maybe she will cry for her mother, but her mother is long
Dead: Olive, riding her horse through the snow in Maine.
I once cracked a purple mussel shell and my greed for that moment
Lingers. That’s the way I want to put it now,
Though I could say, a kid walking over sand.
I was allowed to eat two cinnamon graham
Crackers as I walked over the clam-flats into the dense murky water.
The snarl of bright green sea grass licked my legs,
The soggy cracker dense in my mouth.
Who cares about grief? It's just a word. Like sand or snow. I could eat
A lot of coconut cake now that everyone’s dead:
No one will care how fat I get. I could eat and eat and eat,
But I don’t want to. I still remember my mother sending me to camp,
Then the quarters that arrived in the mail, taped to a piece of cardboard.
I rushed to the soda machine. Chose grape, my favorite. It was only later
That I felt sick from all the soda and left the dance before the boy
Could touch me, under my yellow shirt.
Sally Cobau is a teacher/writer/mother/yoga practitioner/hiker from a tiny town in southwest Montana. Having received her MFA in poetry from the University of Montana, she's had work published in rattle, Room magazine, Ekphrastic Review, Poems Across the Big Sky, the Sun, writing in a woman's voice, and Oyster River Pages, among other literary journals and anthologies. When she's not writing, she's hiking the mountains near home or taking photos on her iPhone.