TBI 4: To Bakersfield With Love
Like a silverware drawer in an earthquake
this old motor home rattles with every hole,
trundling down highway 101 as if we were stuck inside a fat man running
slow, but we’ll get there. Trying to nap on the trampoline in the back room
counting the daylight between me and the sheets, sleeping with only one eye.
My prisoner thinks if it’s Tuesday this must be Pakistan,
or is it Germany today? He harvests words like a satellite lost in space,
picking up occasional beeps, giving them back
in random sentences that make me cock my head
like a confused dog. His brain refuses to tell him the war is over
or how to make a sandwich or the meaning of aphasia,
what we have here is a breakdown in communication.
My life inside out is just a pocket full of memory crumbs,
I lay a trail south and hold hope like a birthday candle
lighting the way for two fire fighters, his friends in a previous edition
take turns driving through the night, to deliver him like a UPS package
shipped safely to Bakersfield in one of those big brown trucks.
He decides to run away at a rest stop somewhere outside Shasta,
puts on his shoes and coat, quietly opens the back door
I wake and catch his hand, “It’s so cold outside baby, wait
and leave in the morning.” Defeated, huddling in his jacket
he never takes off his baseball cap. Slouching in the ratty captain’s chairs
bolted to the floor of our cage we wait for morning to come for him.
I feel like a freight train clacking down the concrete,
bump ba dump bump ba dump into central California and the end of the road.
Today is November 27th and time’s dead star collapses inward
becoming a new map that leads to April when I will see him again.
I feel like my grandma’s quilt, the one she made for a five-year-old me
from scraps of clothes we loved or hated, tied at the corners
with red yarn and washed so much it has holes now like me and him.
I want to leave, I think too much. I’m past the prayers and the bargains
God. I’m working on acceptance and escape. No one told me
escape is the stage of grief that carries guilt like a stone in its greasy backpack,
Bakersfield and the Facility are waiting surrounded by fields of grapes.
I will hand him over my burden, my love, my focus
will change like a reindeer molting, I’ll lose winter fur and grow antlers
to fight insurance companies. I’ll be listening at the door with a glass of wine
in my hand, waiting for April to call, hoping he wrote down my number.