Leigh Stein

Travel & Transitioning

Three Poems


To think of gratitude and to think of thank you cards
instead, the small panic of them, the pressure
to buy the ones with black and white Parisian photograph
covers and the blank insides, ready for your profound message,
you writer, you beautiful liar; you are supposed to be good at this.

So you write, Thank you for the flowers. I don’t know
what to call them, but they are pink and I plan
on taking them to bed with me in your absence. You write,
Thank you for the reminder you’re eight hundred miles away.
You draw pictures of hot air balloons and trolley cars and
inaccurate maps of the United States with dash dashed arrow
routes that point from one stick person holding flowers
to another stick person empty handed.

And when it is too hard to be thankful for anything
other than the fact that at least the two of you aren’t dead yet,
you call, despite the time zone difference and impossible hour,
to say, Walk west so that I can hear your footsteps better.


To the cowboy who taught me
to light matches with my teeth,

I say, look at this wind tonight. Look
at the way it snaps the tree trunks can
you teach me to light those? Can you
teach me to build a kite out of them? Something
to fly on from here to there something to measure
the distance of absence with? I say, look:
Velocity impetus alacrity flux. I say, look:
The intrinsic arrowing of our two mouths.

Civil War

I apologize for getting off on danger, but
I can’t tell you any more
about my transitory fantasies involving the two of us
being consumed by prairie fire, because remember
last time? when I said I wanted to take the bones
of your hands and make them into a heart shaped brooch
for my new tweed jacket?

You totally freaked out
and I was just being romantic.

And I’m sorry that
I spent most of last night trying
to crawl inside the spine of my atlas and
I’m also sorry for eskimo kissing the hell out of
the Mason-Dixon line, but globes make
impossible pillows. Pillows make
impossible pillows. I don’t know what to do any more
but ask you to sever and mail me a limb while
I work on memorizing the topography of too far away.

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