At the Edge of Town


—for Lyn, Ike, Ephraim, and Elisheva




where all the Mexicans live,

roped in by laundered lace
flouncing atop the front porch
in a gypsy bazaar
of yellowed undershirts and velvet
dojiggers, where roosters crow
home, home, home, on the range
and every doo-dad and pink flamingo
pokes the eye of
the banker's ungodly

hour.
Back yards lead to dirt and gravel roads
for me and Suzy, Lizzie, and brat-brother
Rudy.  September expeditions
smell of lavender and chamomile
boiling on Mama's stove
like some queer and holy
stew.  Stones are fallen stars
afire, call to us
"Me, me, pick me!," say
we've stumbled on diamonds.
So the blues
must be turquoise, the reds
without question
rubies
smack in the heartland

of Illinois.
When my husband's back gave out
day and night he howled
"When it's time, just dump me
at the edge of town and leave me."

Here mothers in Dodge Caravans cut loose
the blind, old, and three-legged dogs,
shout "Out, dog! Out cur!"
over babies in car seats
and toddlers screaming "No, no
not Buddy, not Sugar!"
Not knowing the game of bait-and-switch,
the mutt trots off
paws click-a-clicking on

the gravel road. 
One morning Compadre Lolo
leaves the animal a hot bowl of beans
and tortillas cut into triangles,
all for free, without a hint of payback
or demand for the witty

roll-over trick. 
Soon he falls in love
with the sweet bite of jalapeno
feels lucky to dig in the cornpatch, sniff
a different dog every day,  
to kick mountains of tires and cans
in the junkyard.  Can't wait

for his day. 
Sunday, when Gracie pulls him up on paw tips
names him Major, makes him dance
that silly ta-ra-ta-ra-ta-ra
hat dance
to polkas and much tingle-tongle:
It's Uncle Junior on the German accordion,
the one that crossed the big ocean
in the arms of
Private first-class Rodriguez.

More than twice in a blue moon's night
his one ear fans out big as a satellite dish:
If he hears the whir
of wheels on slick blacktop
If he spots a moonlit fender
scary in its newness 

Major runs
faster than a coydog
as the curtain, trumpet-tongued and dusty
breaks open
at the edge of town.



*Originally published in Squaw Valley Anthology
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