as I tell her everything
outside this diner window used to be farmland,
not much more than a crossroad to some other place
people traveled to, like a 1930s sepia photograph
of dust-blown dreams. Now, row after row
of cardboard subdivisions, a florist shop, a Shell station,
SunTrust Bank. I imagine a life with less complications,
no broken marriages lining the horizon like fence posts,
no love affairs hidden behind drawn curtains,
pee-wee baseball, soccer, ballet classes, chess lessons,
a math center teaching children what they don’t learn in school
or home. A few churches. She refills my cup
and grabs a handful of half-and-half Mini-Moos,
tosses them on the table like dice.
I’m sure she’s taken a chance a few times, doubling down
on the future with some rodeo clown.
I sit and stare out the window. It’s a craps game,
this thing called love. I want to tell her,
but I don’t because she already knows
some people hand out heartbreak like window flyers.
There are no guarantees even when the coffee is fresh
that the men she’s serving will be pleased. I want to tell her
it’s okay to be happy, but that seems weird. I watch her
scrape the tips across the tabletop and into her apron pocket.
Out front, the pecan tree is older than the Depression,
taller than the power lines. I’d like to push Lydia on the swing
in a spring breeze, the chaste lace of her skirt
lifting upward with each gentle thrust,
each ekstasis dream floating away. I wonder
if the cream-colored stars are small but close,
or large and far away. We both know the score
playing in the background, a ragtime piano riff
on the jukebox filled with oldies, creating a wave of nostalgia.
I wish it were a money tree—I’d give it to her leaf by leaf
to fold into her purse, something to count on for the lean times.
I’d shuck the branches clean into a bank bag.
Across the street, the old barn was razed more than thirty years ago.
There was a hayloft, a Studebaker on blocks, a plow horse
resting in his stall munching oats. I could be Warren Beatty
and she, Faye Dunaway, but this is just a fantasy,
and Lydia has no time to play along with what doesn’t pay the rent.
When I asked for another cup of coffee
she said, “Three cups is enough.”
She’s right, sliding the check across the table,
pivoting to a booth of hunters on their way back
from some dark woods where no game was killed.