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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE BARMAID AND THE ALEXANDRITE, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Route 66, a rut of scenery and cigarettes
Last Line: From telluride, to taos, to galisteo.
Subject(s): Bars & Bartenders; Stones; Travel; Pubs; Taverns; Saloons; Granite; Rocks; Journeys; Trips

Route 66, a rut of scenery and cigarettes -
all I know of Indianapolis
is a ladies' room at 3 AM.

I slept with strangers.
The mornings, born green,
were honed down by the sun

to my cigarette -
one spark on the night window

as the telephone pole tally
ticked down to Flagstaff,
a bed, a bath, a bar and there

her round arms, pale,
moonlit adobe dreams,
passed the beers down the bar.

With a smile like a torn billboard
she moved through male voices
from Tucumcari, to Gallup, to Flagstaff.

Desert towns isolated on the land, bright and brittle,
as a potato-chip bag caught on a cactus.

The night slackened to a shade of New York City snow
and the last pair of cowboy boots measure
their metronome stride on the dew-darkened sidewalk.

Stirring her coffee she talked -
boardinghouses, suitcases,
wild daisies wilting in a peanut-butter jar.

And then she reached into her bra,
undid a safety pin, and set in my hand
the ring, a welt of color warm from her skin -

an alexandrite, heliotrope-heavy in the half-light.
Two women in the dirty-laundry dawn
hunched over a stone.

Silence circled from the cold desert
to slither the edge of our skirts.

We watched the stone waver in the mizzling sun
as its color curdled to green in my hand -
jelled green in the first sparrow call.

I left on the bus to find my way back
home - the honeycomb that fits you into all its holes -
gnawed my way back through hamburgers

and the anonymous arteries of America
trying to read answers in road signs.

And she passed out the beers
wearing a stone against her breast -
a dark bruise that she watched

resolve again to green in every dawn
from Telluride, to Taos, to Galisteo.

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