Sunday Poem

The Fat Lady

“Can’t talk,” I say, doing 85. “Can’t hear
or talk.” I snap shut the phone,
cut him off, hold the dead phone
to my ear like a hankie-wrapped
ice-pack to a contusion. I slow to 70;
the fat lady I cut off at the onramp
shouts through both our closed windows
so wide her mouth’s all teeth and
tongue and dark and her Jesus-fish
and troop loop ride away, I-95 rushing
up too superreal like a movie-promo
before digital got finesse. Green highway
signs only tell how to get where you
already know to go. Used car lots
flash by like jewelers’ windows;
last pale sheets of sun dribble away
as evening finds its shape against
the things of the ground,
loses shape becoming night—

She was tired of sad modern endings.
She was tired of modern sadness and ennui.
She narrated things calmly and swiftly
like an easy-running stream
beneath the racing jumping flux—
unnatural this hum of narration,
the way the sun’s unnatural—unreal—
she wanted 19th Century endings—
believably happy wives—
turn the radio louder…
the problem might be she calls herself “she”…

so they bleed, I’m toothing
dry skin off my lips, dropping the phone
on the car floor under the brake—
oil refineries are nets and
scaffolding and tinker toys set
far back from the road—and everywhere,
tire-tread shorn from truck-wheels,
collars and cuffs ripped free
and never swept up, washed up
along and leaning against and kissing
at the median strip, jumps up
to twang the chassis—I duck down,
pick up the phone, the car sways,
I hit redial, can’t stop choking—
“Look,” I say. “I won’t say sorry.
It’s nothing either of us did. Can’t we
just move on from here?”—“Can’t talk,”
he says, hangs up. No static. Smooth
techno-silence like a moral that’s
big, bigger than the road is fast.

How his hair lifts and falls. Ahead,
an explosion: brake-lights
sequentially burn back at her,
smoke pouf becomes a skein
they all drive through
: an
18-wheeler’s tire has blown
apart and now the truck limps
shedding tread that minivans,
Hyundais, Escapes, H2s, swerve
to avoid, graceful conga
line of cars.
She saw this driving
along, the veins of her breasts
the same blue as old roads, the cars
drag their red lights, movable
puddles, behind them.
The injured
truck clunks along the shoulder
toward the rest-stop ramp, tire
clinging to the back wheel rim
coming loose, whapping, slapping,
whacking the ground, like a wife
pounding her pillow, alone all night.

by Daisy Fried
from The Manchester Review,
Issue 4, February, 2010