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Also by Lisa Chavez:
The White Professor Holds Forth on Indians | Surrender | Guns


He was the one I couldn't resist
his voice alluring as distant thunder
on a summer afternoon, thrilling me
with the possibility of danger and the promise
of rain.  Like thunder, his voice offered
a thrill of pleasure; my legs went wavery
as water at his words.  I left a husband for him,
a child.  All I had were his stories,
the shimmery future he wove for me
as we lay in a sweat-soaked motel bed.
I believed it all, and so did he,
though that future was never quite
in sight.  Now his words buzz like blue
bottle flies, nuisances I wish I could just slap
away.  His hope faded with opportunities
that never arose, with the slow loss
of his looks—sandy hair turned dry and sparse
as the grass growing beside our trailer.
He still drinks his whiskey without water,
but in the morning his hands shimmy
like his old truck as he guides the doctored coffee
to his mouth.  The bad boy collapsed
into this ruined man.  Some afternoons, drunk
on memories and dollar shots, he flirts
with the girls bored enough
to find their way to this end-of-the-road
dive.  He tries to spin his magic, and his voice—
it's still good—sugar smoky and smooth.
A couple of quarters in the juke box
and he asks them to dance, and sometimes
they do.  He's no longer the agile
man who spun me into a trance,
now he lumbers along as the girls
gaze past him—outdated and pitiful
as a lame dancing bear.

Friends pity me as they watch his pathetic
flirtations—with me sitting there at the bar,
sipping on my single beer gone warm.
And so many days, I pity myself, old now, stuck
in this dust-driven town, our trailer house
a fragile prison on the prairie, a battered tin cup
I can't seem to crawl out from underneath.
My life is not what I wanted at 18
or even 30, when I slammed the door
on one life, and took this lesser one
instead.  My first husband was quiet,
steady as a gentle horse.  Dull.
But him, he was exciting as a summer storm,
as illicit sex, full of promises fire-engine red.
I slid into the front seat of his idling
truck, and he kissed me breathless, hand sliding
automatically between my thighs.  And I
surrendered, swooned, like I never had
as a young girl.  Pledged myself to him.

I thought I knew the meaning
of it then.  Thought it was the way
I sunk onto the shoals of his life
like a skimmed stone.  Now I see
it is something else, something
we both learned to do.  It is all the suitcases
I didn't pack, all the bars I trailed him to,
the long dead hours I worked
to support us both.  It is the jobs he no longer
applies for, the way he slides instead
into the whiskey's amber depths, the way night
after night he sighs before slipping
into a comatose sleep without dreams.
And it is the way I stand by and watch,
the way I measure out my days
counting shot glasses and cigarettes—
the creeping paces of his approaching
death.  Yes,  I'm the captive
audience who doesn't flinch
from the failed trick,
from the long slow plummet
to the netless ground.

Printed in the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of CLR

Lisa Chavez

Lisa D. Chavez is a Chicana Mestiza born in Los Angeles on the winter solstice, and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Her first book of poetry, Destruction Bay, was published by West End Press, and her second, In An Angry Season, was published by the University of Arizona Press (Camino del Sol). She's had poems published in The Americas Review, The Colorado Review, Blue Mesa Review and Prairie Schooner among other places, and had poems included in the anthologies Floricanto Si! A Collection of Latina Poetry (Penguin), The Floating Borderlands: 25 Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature (University of Washington Press), and American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press). Her creative nonfiction—part of a longer memoir-in-progress—has appeared in Fourth Genre, The Clackamas Literary Review and other places.

She teaches at the University of New Mexico Albuquerque.

You can find Lisa Chavez on the web at:
—  Albion College
—  Heartland Magazine
—  Amazon
—  Barnes & Noble

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