AT THE PALACE BAR IN MISSOULA
You sit at the bar absorbed in memory.
A strand of hair leads you to another.
The lady with the run in her stocking is me
and someone else you met in Marseille.
You left her in a dark stained room
with rusty springs and flushing bidets.
She comes to life. Through this weathered nylon
my winter flesh peeks out.
Your drink spills all over my legs.
But this is Montana, there are no bidets.
My bed has no springs, it’s flat on the floor.
You order a beer and look at me crooked.
She had grey eyes and soft lips, in Marseille.
My smile’s like hers, you tell me.
But there is no musk here to sweeten kisses.
Mountain winds make lips taste
like ice, feel like empty skins.
In Cannes, I walked alone by the sea.
Dark Algerians followed me
with crumpled franc notes. French women know.
They swat them away like flies. I had to run.
Memories lose shape like aging stomachs.
You still think I’m the one in Marseille
while this hole in my stocking keeps running.
Review by Jared Pearce
The tension between hope and memory, mistakes and desires is patterned very nicely here; each stanza leads the reader on its short circuit, building the wants and despairs of the speaker, the You, the French. And while there is some glimmer that the characters are getting somewhere, even if it’s terrible (“Memories lose shape like aging stomachs”), eventually we’re stuck at the bar (“You still think I’m the one in Marseille / while this hole in my stocking keeps running.”). At the end, while there are moments of surety, eventually we’re all continually in motion.