Pink Motel by Patti White
"You hold in your hands the map for a sumptuous wander. And you are promised the ocean. Promised crackers cracking almost like bones. Promised trickster maps and miasmic roads and dryads. Via relentless tinkering with the interiors of the mind. Via apocalyptic tectonics. Like Browning’s Childe Roland, Patti White’s Lucy comes nose to nose with the central questions of any quest: is she fit to see; fit to fail; succeed; move even? I am moved to observe that every hole opened along the way overwells and overbrims to flooding with White’s clipped and kinetic music. You will be haunted — gaunt and lonesome some. But just like the ocean wallows forever in every shell, Patti White’s etched, exacting image-making will sound and spellbind you long after." — Abraham Smith
A tesseract of grief. The empty platform
a glacier melting in fluorescent light. She
sees the vanishing point of the rails and
thinks she could disappear gleaming like
smelted iron, her life a line of liquid sun.
Maybe it is five hours since the bombs fell.
Maybe a mist rises from the ravine where
the dead are gathered like a burned forest.
Lucy wears a loose floursack dress and
a cardigan frayed by months of wandering.
Maybe the caramel suitcase tied with string
brass locks and corners watered silk inside.
Maybe a mystery without a solution a house
without a key a broken spine like a fit of rage.
She waits on the platform holding a ticket.
She knows this will be the last train forever.
The notes left on ruled paper blue-ink letters
to the missing from survivors sad to be alive.
The turnstile rusted shut. The awful silence.
She has already checked her bag or bent
to tie a shoe or wiped her neck with a rag
moistened at a water fountain. She thinks:
dream trains are always locals, stopping
everywhere but just where you are going.
Here is grief made four dimensional,
railway lines connected and edged in
space a frozen object flung wide and
whirling the cubist universe of loss.
Vaccine comes like rain into Knoxville
a thousand needle sticks and Band-Aids
some viral cubes of sugar, and who knows
what will work? Lucy has seen this movie:
patient zero walks into town crying blood
someone finds a sick monkey trembling
outside the Winn-Dixie, free clinics fill with
the near-dead, the reaper comes and goes
somehow the world survives, but maybe
this time the virus hides along a nerve or
curls and clusters inside the eye, knotted
like a nest of snakes and she feels so tired,
as if she’s been walking the earth forever
infected with omens, her heart scalded,
her eyes alarmed by everything she sees.
The dry rasp of bat wings or the zipper of
a hazmat suit. A bed drenched in Clorox,
yellow contagion tags, a mosquito net and
yes, she does feel a bit ill, not quite herself
her spleen pinched with an alligator clip or
her throat swollen or straitened or sore and
one day she wakes up with a fever, or not,
maybe she’s perfectly fine, she says she is,
but the quarantine closes in around her and
then they are napalming the neighborhood.
Lucy remembers a story: time travelers in
the sweet season before the plague hits,
the days so poignant and delicious, small
injection sites still raw on vulnerable wrists.
A yellow moon spinning in orbit. A night under stars like blossoms, hillsides fogged with pollen, the groves shadowed and sweet. How that air fell on the skin like a lover’s breath, she thinks, how leaves glittered in the headlights as she swept across the state. The spack spack spack of insects against the windshield. A flash of black water or a plastic bag in the ditch. At the end of the road an airplane or an ocean, wire baskets of lemons on counters, glass pitchers stirred with simple syrup, her heart a poetry of rind and pulp. Lucy keeps a map of Florida in her car just in case and when the weatherman calls for an eclipse she waits outside and watches, remembers mist rising from the road like smudgepots in winter, high winds behind the storms, a wildfire of armadillos blazing through the groves.