I’ve been in Texas so long
that sugar maples, broom sedge,
and the exact lilt of light orange

they share at sundown are little more
than the last few piano notes
Emily in her floor-length skirt

played before the building closed
while the rest of us waited outside
listening ten years ago at twilight.

Since then, two of us have tried
to die.  I am trying to learn
to be each instant. Rather,

as the peach flesh flakes from black
skin of the salmon I have crusted
with pecans, I am wholly aware

that my dinner is the only extant
entity, the axle of the living day
because outside, swatches of light

and sound can reproduce sleeping
pills, a forgotten wrapped package,
the endless list that in this instant

can be avoided: if you read as though
each word is a newborn, read for
the page as its turning, history fails

like a memory stuttering its vowels.
But my basics are clear: my friends
swallowed oblivion in near-misses

and I am far from home, substituting
for heartbeats happy hour, for history
a balanced pencil on my nose,

and for love, a camel coat with lapels.
For broom sedge, an endless brown plain.
for sugar maples, my mind on dulling fire.

Melanie Jordan
MELANIE JORDAN lives in a remodeled railroad house in a quaint little neighborhood in Houston. A Cambor Fellow, she teaches for the University of Houston and the Houston Community College System. She received her MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her undergrad work was completed at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. She still misses the mountains. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Iowa Review, Black Warrior Review, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, and others. She was the recipient of the 2003 Black Warrior Literary Prize and a Pushcart  nomination. Her manuscript, The Only Thing Open, was a finalist in the Crab Orchard first book prize.