The light in Tucson, he said,
the light and the landscape,
it’s like walking on Mars, only warmer.
Everything to the west is better anyway.
It’s 60 degrees in Jackson, Mississippi
and he says he’s in his shirt sleeves.
I scrub the dry rice and potatoes
from a plate and imagine clean
waves of water. The Pacific.
The Atlantic. I don’t care.
All the oceans seem as far away
from this kitchen as the moon.
There are no surprises here in St. Louis
and why should there be?
It is exactly as promised. Narrow streets
and enclosed porches and a shopping
mall I can walk to every day.
Don’t stop in Tucson, he said,
go to Brazil. Eat a papaya.
Sit down on the ground right under the tree
and eat it. Belize, I said, they grow there too
and I like the way it sounds in my mouth.
Or Kenya, he said, I’d like to get close
enough to a lion to smell its breath.
J.D., I ask, does salt have an odor, because
I swear I smell the Gulf breeze through the phone,
and I’m not really washing dishes,
it’s just a metaphor you know,
I’m up to my elbows in the greasy water
of my life. And there’s this assignment,
this writing assignment with three words.
It’s a jumping off point, he said,
a safety net for your leap of faith.
Enough with the dishes, metaphorical
or literal, they’re just an excuse not to go
where you need to go. I can hear you
suffocating from 400 miles away.
Or maybe I just thought those words
and wished I could hear them in the air,
like a guiding voice for the blind,
Walk, Don’t Walk, Walk.
Ok, ok, I said, putting the last
dish inside the cabinet.
But seriously, how am I ever
going to use the word perpendicular?