Poetry Month, Poem A Day, No. 17
The Twelfth Fret
The bridge was wide enough only
for one dog and me, it crosses
an arroyo chiseled out of the red earth
like a wound needing sutures
and waiting for the flood.
“D’ya see those concrete blocks?”
a hiker asked waiting for me to pass,
she nodded toward the chunks of a freeway
lodged below the twelfth fret,
pushed into the dry earth like giant teeth.
“At’ll keep it from surgin’ up on the road.”
I recognized her and smiled.
She had waited for me before
at the grocery store staring
at my litany of smoothie ingredients
chia seeds, kale, berries and soy.
A look of compassionate curiosity
as her son loaded teen-aged food
on the moving counter: chips, soda
more chips, and some ham.
His outstretched arm had a guitar
etched poorly into the pale skin, from wrist
to armpit so he could play the air.
His thin bicep was calloused with years
of strumming six crooked black lines
the instrument’s neck ended at his elbow
pocked with scars and promise
As I lifted the twenty-five pounds
of dog food for the cashier to scan
he offered to help without so much
as a word just a small smile with one
missing canine, and I knew he had been
a good, good boy, vowing just one
toke, kiss, one lay, one sip
one more push and his mother
never stopped believing him.
We passed each other softly
where the bridge met the dirt trail
and she bent down and said “good boy”
to my dog. “Road washed out,
last year,” she said petting his head
gently, again and again. “But it was just
a storm.” Her smile like her son’s.
“We survive,” and she turned around
to continue over the narrow bridge,
I could hear her humming
and saw her hand still petting
my good boy.