Spring/Summer 1993, Volume 10.2
Poetry

LEIGH KIRKLAND

At a Cafe in Hermosa Beach

The wind was already blowing off the ocean:
it changes direction at the end of the day,
something about the difference in water and land temperatures.
The marine layer. Or air inversion. The gist
of it is, that's the reason air pollution
doesn't kill Angelenos outright: the smog rises at night.

When the sun was two fingers above the horizon,
she leaned forward, her hand on my arm: Hush. Don't say
anything else. The light is almost pink. Everything will glow.

She laced her fingers together and pressed her palms
toward the ocean. We moved our chairs closer, our arms stretched
carefully across the table so our elbows grazed.
We were like that, motionless, when the sun dropped
like a coin into the ocean.

Savoring the Season

Tear off one thready stalk of blossoms-
blue petals striated with purple, straining
siphon tongues curving into wide mouths.
Set the stalk in the empty
carawayseed tin over the sink,

Before nightfall, the blue will evaporate, filaments
dry transparent as cicada skin jutting
from tiny green hips. Some hips will offer a miniature
velvet bean, a threat like a fishhook
curving from the green tip.

For Valerie, Seven Days Out of Detox

I know what it means that we were happy then.
Night after night we ordered doubles
at the bar to sound tough,
dry lips ripping on cigarette filters,
sitting on the curb after the club closed,
wired until sunrise.

Pretending even to each other that we slept
though we lay, separately, eyes closed,
eyelids quivering,
biting the corners of sheets
to keep grinding teeth from waking
the men we lay beside.

Falling is what we live with
and what we live for
and what we die with.

The amazing precarious feeling
of standing in a line on a wire
with our arms around each other's shoulders
and the summer was in between
breaths,
and we could keep each other
perfectly balanced forever.
Finally we started breathing.

Balancing without breathing is not the hard part.
We have to learn to stand, and breathe.