Blues Poem, Alaska

Jonathan Travelstead

I can’t help the feeling I’ve been in this city before,
where the sun hovers hours too long in a blunt lead sky.
The snow of Anchorage’s downtown
is a bum’s blanket cut into strips,
heaped in alleys, and in streets in front of bars with names
like The Kodiak, and Bear’s Tooth Tavern (open til four am),
a boarded-up gunshop with yellow post-it note
on the window that says I am so lonely.
It’s light and I have no idea what time it is.
The only person here
is a passing twenty-something brunette
on Third Avenue who looks familiar
in her black quilted goosedown vest and fleece headband.
She sees me see her
trace a lock of jet-black hair over one ear,
then self-consciously looks down and to the left.
I call out a name that is not hers
but she follows instead a steaming torch–
coffee, held aloft in her mittened hands.
I know it would have been better
if this were a dream where the mouth
is clamped shut by the little brain.
Better not to puzzle
the correct sounds to pictures of thought
and cry like a wounded animal.
Better words remain without wings.
Better not to shake the bad rattle.

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