Mike Wilson

Somewhere Outside Berlin, Nevada

Expulsión: Luna y luz de fuego by Thomas Cole

I need a short poem to fix a flat tire before I motor into the desert night.

That’s what comes to him, standing on the apron of the highway under a full moon that’s pretty unless you look close and see how it’s looking back, giving you nothing; sour as a lemon, the way the babe is looking at him, this blonde in a mermaid evening dress and he can’t remember her name. Chelsea?

“Poet noir? That’s what you said you were? What is that?”

Her arms are crossed, a sentence she doesn’t say, more expressive of contempt than any she could fashion with her juvenile detention center vocabulary. Her language isn’t words, it’s what’s crammed inside that evening dress. Squeezing her chest that way makes her cleavage bulge, reminds him how she came to be in his car, this 38D diptych, an icon summoning the reverence of every man not ashamed to speak the truth. Even if he can’t remember her name. Barbara? The blonde lights a cigarette, twists open a beer, puts it to her lips, and tilts her head back. He watches her swallow, swallow, and then her head drops. She gives him a look that says you’re a two-bit loser.  Her mouth opens like the lid of a treasure chest.

“Where’s the champagne, Charlie?”

She has a point. But I still need that poem.

The Lincoln Continental is parked in darkness at the edge of town that Springsteen sang about, except this town literally is a ghost town where tourists pay good money to tiptoe through ramshackle saloons and be tickled with scary stories. But no one’s here tonight, not even the ghosts, only a lonely ribbon of highway disappearing into everything he can’t see. The orange at the end of the blonde’s cigarette glows like a laser dot from an angel’s assault rifle. It’s too dark to see the pigment of her eyes, but he wonders if they sharpen in the direction of navy blue when she’s angry the way they do when she orgasms. Either way, they drill into him like the glare of a hooker who’s been shorted. Diane? is that her name?

He looks up at stars sprinkled across the sky, a condiment scattered across black ice cream, and doesn’t see God. It’s the absence of God that echoes in the emptiness of this night. For sailors, stars provide constancy and order immune from wars of kings and the burning of witches and saints. He’s not a sailor, no Vasco Da Gama, and now he’s without bearings. I wish I’d learned to read maps.

He feels cold beer splash against his face. The blonde is staring him down like a prison guard with the key he’ll never get hold of. Then her gaze breaks. She taps ashes from her smoke and says, “So?”

Linda, he thinks. Her name is Linda.


About the writer:
Mike Wilson‘s work has appeared in magazines including The Seventh Wave, Fiction Southeast, Narrative Northeast, Chicago Literati, and Anthology of Appalachian Writers Vol. X. He is author of Arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic (Rabbit House Press, 2020). He resides in Central Kentucky.

Image: Expulsión: Luna y luz de fuego by Thomas Cole (1801-1848). Oil on canvas. 35.9 x 48 inches. Circa 1828. Public domain.