Napo 8

I love this picture so much. That's me and my amazing colleagues, from left, Jerry Craven, Jerry Bradley, and Jim Sanderson. I don't think I need to tell you which one is me. We're at the Texas Institute of Letters Banquet in San Antonio. It was my first banquet as a newly inducted member. I owe these men an enormous debt of gratitude for believing in me, empowering me, and encouraging me. Plus, they're just plain fun to be around!

I have to say, though, that I'm a little glad this weekend is over. B and I are driving back to Beaumont now, and I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again and return to my routine. Also, I miss my cats.

So, being on the road and not driving, I have some time to write. So, I got this little draft of a poem together. What's infinity? That was today's prompt. I think that most things, when we understand them, we learn they're not really infinite. The ocean has a bottom. We know the sun will eventually putter out. Texas summers eventually come to an end. There's a certain wonder, a certain sacredness, in believing something is infinite. The only thing that's infinite that I can think of is love. And maybe it's not. Maybe we wear it out, too, like the sun (that's another really good idea for a poem, Katie!). And dishes. Anyway, here's my poem about it.


She is Sisyphus
Standing at the sink
Her wrists submerged in foam
That bubbles and refracts a rainbow
Of color that reminds her of a place
She thought might be what heaven
Looks like—the Texas prairies
In spring, in bloom, with wildflowers
Sprinkled like a confetti
From a cascarone shell.

In a million years,
She never thought
Heaven would be this.
She squeezes a sponge
And suds emerge like sea foam.
She conjures up the ocean,
The feeling of wet sand
Between the toes, the lulling waves
That almost felt like they could be
The definition of infinity.

She grasps a plate,
Crusted with yesterday,
Soaks it for a moment
As it lets go of the stain,
Releases it the warmth of water,
Reminding her of summer afternoons,
That once felt endless, too—
The sun forever hanging in the sky,
And even when, at dusk, the blue
Would blush to red,
Tomorrow would unfold
A brand new day of endless blue hours
To laugh and play and fall in love.

Since then, she’s learned the meaning
Of forever—most things, except the sacred,
come and go. The Texas wildflowers fade to brown.
The ocean has a bottom man has touched.
Even southern summers give way
To autumn’s chill. Her task complete
For now, she rinses off her hands,
Dries them on her jeans and sighs.

The plates are neatly stacked.
The coffee cups sit upside down.
The silverware shines in the rays
Of afternoon sun that traveled
Lightyears just to make her squint
And marvel, briefly, at its beauty.

She blinks. The sink fills up
just like it always does,
and she’ll outpour her love
and wash another mountain clean
with her water-wrinkled hands,

a tired sponge, some soap.