Lucia Galloway

Dear Earthling

In the dream of white ground, black trees, blue dazzle
In the reality of soot-flecked slush under dishwater sky
In the loss of your favorite ring in a snowball fight
and the florist-stall daisies blue or magenta when you wanted white
In "Good morning" and "How are you?"

In the snatch of tango from the door of a bar
In the loofa, bath towel, and Kiehl's Coriander Lotion
In loons' call from the lake and the loose v of the mallard's wake
In calico carp kissing the surface of the botanic garden pond
and half a dozen hens scratching, swallowing grubs in their yard
In a month-old calf grazing pasture near its mother
In its dull-eyed destiny, forced to gorge on corn
In the ear of a weanling pig and the breath from a horse's nose
In the way you listen as carefully to the kitten's meow
as you listen to the questions of your children
here find the bedrock thrusting through the scree—
the children, small whistles piercing thicknesses of air.



Boxcars are not my home of choice.
Not that I've ever slept in one
or even hoisted up
to set my feet on gritty floors.

But I have seen them in the middle distance
lined up on the siding,
their dull, faded colors,
their heavy doors slid open
and the daylight bisecting
their rough interiors—
caverns of black and gray.

Even Dad, affected
with the wanderlust, had scant
praise for the boxcar as a mode of travel,
preferring to thumb his rides
from drivers even of rickety, rusty trucks
cleaving to mountain highways.

It wasn't just about comfort,
wasn't simply the safety of knowing
that the one in the driver's seat could
at any time apply the brakes and stop
to hush the body's whining: the aching bones,
the empty stomach,
the bladder full to burst.

It was about dignity and the
conviction, you see, that while
any old hobo could hop a train,
only a man of some class could hope
to score a lift from a guy
in a '37 Packard
cruising through Kentucky
with silver celerity
and slick red panache.


He slept in the boxcar overnight to Quincy.
He slept on a bed of cinders.
He slept in a small-town lock-up,

choosing its no-cost hospitality to the a chill beneath a stairway.

He slept uneasily under an assumed name.
He slept with an assumed dignity.
He slept on the government dole at Fort McPherson and in the middle

tier of a berth below deck on the Chateau Thierry.

He slept under mosquito netting in tropical Panama,
     then under a sheet with his wife.
He slept after begetting a child.
He slept on the sofa, Sundays after church.
He slept on the sofa and woke for the last time, coughing.
He slept soundly after his heart had stopped.
He slept on a bed of white satin.
He slept among clods and roots and seeping rain

and his sleep was the feast of grubs and maggots,

all manner or worms.


Point me in the direction of the house
and I'll go there.

I mean the house where I'm welcome,
the house where I'm meant to be.

The house where my pajamas are hanging
on a peg behind the door
and my slippers stick out from under
the bedspread fringe.

Where my cat is curled up, asleep on the sofa,
where she purrs mightily when I sit down beside her.

Where there's a cup on the stovetop with my name on it
and my old Shirley Temple cereal bowl
on the cupboard shelf.

Where pansies lift their faces from flower boxes
and dandelions dot the yard;
where morning glories open and hollyhocks,
and where asparagus pursues its slow growth
beside the backyard fence.

Take me there,
can you?  The map is tattered, torn
at the folds. Take me, take
me home.


Lucia Galloway's poems appear or are forthcoming in Comstock Review, Poemeleon, Her Mark 2009, Foundling Review, Redheaded Stepchild, Rufous City Review, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Untitled Country Review, to name the most recent.  The winner of several awards and prizes, she has two books to her credit: Venus and Other Losses (Plain View, 2010) and Playing Outside (Finishing Line, 2005).  Galloway co-hosts a monthly poetry reading series in Claremont, California.



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