The Morse Code of Love
On the New Jersey Turnpike, I drive
toward the Barron Art Center.
The refineries spew acrid smoke
over the houses and people.
I wonder, do those who live here
stop smelling the odor that makes me
want to hold my breath
till I've passed Elizabeth?
I get off the Turnpike,
follow signs to Route 9,
lose the exit
and drift through grimy, honky tonk
towns lined with McDonald's and Burger King,
Goodrich Tires and Hess Gas Stations.
When I arrive at the reading, the Center
is not air-conditioned, and we are crowded
into a small room. My friend, the poet,
reads well, savoring the drama of his words.
Sometimes another friend accompanies him
on the flute, the sound plaintive and sad
in the still air. I think of Jennifer
alone in Washington and wish I had not missed
her call. I try to imagine her
sleeping in her dorm room trying
to make it lovely. I wonder if her
boyfriend has delivered the final axe stroke.
As I drive through Niagaras of rain past Rahway State
and bars that are seedy and neon-lit, I look for signs
that seem to have vanished, and call out to her
in the Morse Code of love. Daugher, imagine
that I am holding you and that this loneliness, too,
can be soothed and comforted.