Three Poems By Richard Long

Groom, Texas, on RTE 66

When I checked my voice mail west of Groom
where the Cross of Our Lord towers over RTE 66,
a ghostly voice of static told me Carlos had died
and I should wait on the shoulder of the road

for a message meant for me from the other side—
that he had stopped in the dead bar of a ghost town
where he had talked with the barkeep’s tattoo
of seven faces while using his phone to find me

and where they somehow knew of the time
when communion and weed tripped me up
over worship with the sheriff in the next pew

and to warn it does little good to vanish into arid
west Texas because the flat road will never lead me
out of the looming shadow of the Cross of Our Lord.
Do Not Go Mad Across the River

At the Chain of Rocks, the street
prophet declared mutation was rampant,
the town bars were dead, and the dead
were waiting to guide me to the charred

wreckage of a boat. A dropped match,
he said, lit the lower deck, 300 burned
and the shore a mere 50 yards away—
they catalogued the teeth and age

of bodies they pulled out, then tossed
them back into the river. I had an ache,
a low-grade fever, I hope the fortitude

not to go mad, even as the sorrow
of his sermonizing weighed down a raft
of bodies I passed over to cross the river.
Home for the Rest of My Life

In the bar of the dead saloon
the keys of the pianola began playing,
and everyone sashayed onto the dance floor
for a last dance before the lights went out.

I wanted this to be home for the rest
of my life—they were joy in the way
they waltzed across the dance floor,
past the pianola, and out onto the street.

But the tattooed barkeep with smiling faces
told me it was time to move on and I could
pass the night at the Greyhound depot

where a body hanging in the third stall
was looking for someone to keep it company
while it waited for a lover to come home.

Richard Long is a retired English professor in Santa Rosa, California. Since 1996, he has edited 2River, www.2River.org, quarterly publishing The 2River View and occasionally publishing individual writers in the 2River Chapbook Series.

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