All through the cavities of my house, the fan whirrs its white noise. Television on mute as the Miles Davis Quintet fills my Spartan rooms. I have four books open to a May poem. Lee please call me tonight and say, I know they both lack, but, Lindsay, which of these stanzas isn’t the least? Save me from cheap noodles and drinking another beer. I lived in Laramie and still couldn’t fall asleep. Did you sleep in Wyoming? Stepping off the bus with son and suitcase, you only had two hands. You must have known you found revision. Writing about highways, I cut out a line about wind in your eyes—and it’s erasure. I cut another then write, a Lee in need of a lee and hate it. I’m rereading Carver’s poem about NyQuil. Do I drive to the all night Safeway, or text someone asleep? Work on that novel with the unlikable male protagonist? No more NyQuil. No more grading papers. No more soccer in the backyard with the dog, now afraid of the ball. No more trips to the 24-hour diner for steak and eggs. No more Lee.
My friends are all on east coast time. My girlfriend’s asleep in Vegas, and I’m in Nevada’s dirty little secret watching infomercials in TV’s blue bubble and swearing that Pabst Blue Ribbon is non-alcoholic. Even the guys at the halfway house next door are sleeping. Even the dog knows this routine, my chewing without hunger. You ordered, but didn’t eat the first time we met, told me you didn’t wear seatbelts because they hurt your skin, handed me a May Svenson poem asking, What’s my favorite line? I wish I’d said, Lee, please eat. Said, Fuck, Cormac. I wish for sleep, to forget the shadows, the NyQuil, to quit filling in the dialog for every commercial. When I change the channel, I swear No Country for Old Men is on. I keep it on mute and watch him stash the money under the trailer. He should have died on screen. I know, I know. Something lives in absence, emptiness. But I just see an old man failing to write a scene, my dog’s sappy stare. I’m gazing back, too. You snapped the best photo of my father and me I own. I’m looking at your written words below the frame, thinking of you absent from the photo. Dawn creeps in to point in a direction I hadn’t considered. The morning’s a map—the promise of distance—the white gap we loved between here and anywhere else.
I don’t yawn. Lee, I don’t even sleep right, and I’ll ruin the end of this poem for you. I’ve revised myself as many times as you, living hidden in most of the western states, failing at love. I want to end this with praise, but I’ve driven too far into the distance, talked too much, my old problem—the horizon forever receding. You laughed the time I told you Miles Davis yelled at Coltrane for not finishing his solo soon enough. Trane said, But sometimes I don’t know how to end, and Davis replied, Take the fucking horn out of your mouth. You laughed genuine and dark, and it lifted from your balcony, sure of itself, out into the Bakersfield heat, the valley, deep into that good ole boy country, and then beyond.