Hanging on the back of a tired truck,
he exhales streams of vapor at 7 a.m.
still wearing yesterday’s skinny jeans
and red Chuck Taylors, the required
fluorescent vest pulled over his hoodie.
He rubs the night from his eyes
then pulls gloves from back pocket.
He plays nights into these mornings
at all the local places,
floors sticky with beer,
tables crowded with college kids
spending their minimum wages
on dollar drafts and jukebox memories,
filled with waitresses carrying long hours of trays,
looking for tips big enough
to take them away from here, someday.
He plays his guitar, electric and blue,
until last call, walks the blocks he works
in daylight home to a garage apartment
to catch three hours of sleep.
Jumping down, he takes time walking to the curb,
swings over-stuffed green bags
into the belly of the truck,
pushes a button to crush and compact.
He repeats block after block.
At the end of the run, he climbs back onto his ride,
spits last night’s stale taste into the gutter.
He tightens his grip when the truck lumbers
around a corner, its pipes coughing black smoke,
motor whining against the frosty morning.
Last Sunday in August
Her fingers find his hair despite the humidity
and sting of last week’s argument now a vague
itch she absently scratches.
He lounges on the front stoop, hair below shoulders,
steel-toe boots. His hands rest
on her hips, head against her stomach.
It’s a standard NEPA neighborhood –
houses shoulder to shoulder,
shared driveways, pot-holed street, metal porch awning,
a heap of bikes in the front yard, howl of kids in backyard.
She wears faded Levi’s and a white t-shirt. Her back to the traffic,
she’s bare-footed and staring
through the screen door into a dark front room –
maybe beyond – straight out the back door to something lost,
at the edge of the river after Friday night games, two reunions removed
from the present. The heat won’t let go, won’t give in.
Her blonde hair tangoes with the wind.
Tomorrow she will climb a ladder
to the detached garage’s loft, unpack Fall’s cleaner air, hint
of a colder season from stacked cardboard boxes.
If I knew you would sprint across the tracks,
jump the crumbling stone wall,
run through the Victorian’s weed-punctuated yard,
climb the rusted fire escape,
push up my bedroom window,
its aging panes rattled by freight-train rumble,
just enough to slide in your runner’s body,
and tuck me under you by light of the midnight moon,
then I wouldn’t have had to cry
so many years over my fall from grace.
Dawn Leas’s work has appeared in Literary Mama, San Pedro River Review, Connecticut River Review, The Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. Her chapbook, I Know When to Keep Quiet, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010). A collection of her poems can be found in Everyday Escape Poems, an anthology released by Swan Dive Publishing (2014) and her first full-length collection is forthcoming in 2016 from Winter Goose Publishing. She is the assistant to the president at Wilkes University and a contributing editor at Poets’ Quarterly and TheThePoetry. Her website is dawnleas.com