To Outlast

The last cigarette clutched at my fingers, stretched
my lungs, and drew smoke into me, hide-n-seek-

style. It’s been a while; my doctors tell me not
long enough, not lung enough, and quite frankly,

I am fine if I’ve heard the last at your age
already. But, what lasts? What doesn’t? I don’t

want a last cup of coffee, last glass of Malbec
half-drunk on the banks of sky-lakes, good

argument (no one cares who started it), candied
orange peel dipped in dark chocolate, cathedral

spire on blue photo, ideas for novels I’ll never write
(at my age…), fresh images, late-in-the-day name

the clouds with my sons on the lawn, comfortable
silences between friends. No final fortune to hear

the ring, the gods ch-churning the machine. No more
conversations interrupted by meteor shower.

Soft the Wrist of Morning

Leafing with life, love is the tallest tree
on the planet. We listen to the unweaned
wind, ink notebooks word-full in a rush
to remember crinoline slips, stilettos,

fat lashes, and lip pencils, irons and curlers
and powder. The waitress sings along
with the Bee Gees though she can’t be old
enough to remember—water’s running

hard somewhere—metal sink, plastic bin,
plastic bang on metal plate. The next table
over two girls compare class notes, maybe,
from University, could be high schoolers.

Next to them, a first date (bad news, son,
she has kept her purse on her shoulder,
and you’ve been here ten minutes). Bells
and whistles unwind, but will soon still

like marble. You hold a ragged book in
your hand, someone’s poems, traces of
conversations, hybrid hyacinths blued
by morning. August, and we don’t care.

We cannot pull pathos forward as the world
spins along. At the counter, a bookworm,
chrysalissed, sits upright, hair up tight
in a bun, glasses at half-mast out of respect;

her book-holder-opener shows her place.
Our dreams curl like hands and fold
like blossoms. Lately, our evenings fall,
unopened pinecones. All the tests show

your health is failing. I order another
coffee, butter dry toast, and down the road
a plane pulls out just on a signalman’s flag.
A hurricane waits not for signals.

A tree breaks the ground. A river cuts
deeper. The windows, open like mouths,
let in a mewling cry of a saxophone
a street over, the song swaying. You tell me

sleep is only fear of awareness of a dream
paler than the one we’ve lived. It’s a vision
with heavy eyelids. A vision I don’t share.
Dishes clap against each other, diner glass

rings crystal. The girls lean in whispered
conversations, the song changes, though
the Gibbs boys are still carrying the room,
the worm static, staid in her position;

a couple enters and he orders for both
while she texts her approval. The date
oscillates sunward; on the back of a chair
now, a purse hangs. (Good news, son.)

Michele Parker Randall is the author of Museum of Everyday Life (Kelsay Books 2015) and A Future Unmappable, chapbook (Finishing Line Press 2021). Her work can be found in Nimrod International Journal, Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere.