[from Joshua Beckman's Things Are Happening, American Poetry Review, 1998]
Purple Heart Highway [excerpt]
One day you are like an animal.
You have a routine.
There are certain places that attract you
and others that repel you
and the next you are a kite
at the mercy of every slight tide of wind
forced into quick decisions,
your string attached to the hand of a stranger
your body moving wildly, your heart batted around
by the fastest notes of indecision
and the sky and the world still, unbreakable,
a gray grinning calmness
from which you can get nothing to wake.
Down at the beach
early this morning
the surfers and then lightning
brought them in on their bellies
men washing up on shore
I guess we've all had dreams like that.
Then Frank shows up
off the back part of the beach,
an angel in every landscape,
drawing them in
with his warm steadiness.
He is the scientific talk
of the even sounds of rain
and when I reach the parking lot
he has painted everything
the right color of memory.
Sand the color sand was.
Water the color it will always be,
and they are huddled around him
bent over like flowers
surfboards about the beach
as if they peeled off trees
a minute before.
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