Pine Needles

Loose pine needles, brown and frowning with age,
fall in your hair as you wheel your cart beneath,
and hide your bottles, on this pale blue afternoon;
as everyone else heads out on a long weekend.

Well, not Sheila, she will stay with you
into the evening’s grey-glow, and in the dark,
before the dry of the morning, she will beg
your indifference as you finish your 40-ouncer
of Big Bear malt liquor, and when you’re past
laughing about the joke you made up,
about why they call it Big Bear, and when fear’s flint 
returns to rake the runnel of your back,
and the Bic lighter flicks sick-yellow behind your eyes
—she will still fear loneliness more than knuckles.

But she remembers too your tender lightness,
the day the rain ran down over the spruce boughs,
soaking your cotton blanket, cooling your rage
and your hunger, and you both slept deep as dirt,
until the gardener woke you with his rake,
and you laughed past his glare and said, "Let
the fuckin’ sprinklers come on, we need a wash."

In those days Mistahi-muskwa’s spirit fell and rose
and circled round like the scent of snapped spruce,
and you would hold Sheila without trembling
and she would curl like an "S" into your desire.
But tonight she is wary even of pine needles.


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