Paul Hlava

I was so in love I bought a gun.
I want to save Gloria but from what?
In that little town over the dunes
on the border of Mexico
friends and I walked the dirt road
under the decimated leaves
the brush scattered in heaps beside us
like a girl's discarded dolls.
Feathers drifted from the sky
and paved the road white.
Feathers were tangled in the tumbleweeds,
between the stones at the edge of the canal,
they moved in clumps along the water.
Michael heard shots fired in the distance.
We shouted but the hunters didn't respond.
White birds evacuated the brush,
a hare scrambled past us on the path
to disappear around the bend.
The shotguns were coming closer.
What was Gloria to me then?
We turned from the voices and echoing bursts
and jumped in the canal
and were each carried away
to our own places in the moving water
where the sun balanced on the lip of the desert
and turtles crawled invisibly beneath us,
the water white with feathers
as it had to be. I hold my breath
inside an idea and kick
from one muddy embankment to the next.
Gloria paces the window ledge of autonomy
watching for specks approaching on the waves.
I am an object of a world my object.
I write to learn what I know.
What do I know?
The molding is separating from the wall.
The wooden floorboards are warped
from the roof leak of the last big storm.
I stress over the electric bill. I inspect
the charred grains of rice near the burners
to make sure they aren't mouse droppings.
I sweep the floor and keep a lid on the trash.
Gloria scrubs the stove as I scrub the stove.
She walks down the cellar stairs
and I arrive at the bottom.
She holds me back with the four legs
of an overturned chair.
When she says red, I say blue.
When I say hummingbird
she says unmanned drone.
When I hand her a rose, she says
dusk is falling like a shirt from the line.
There is silence and no silence.
Sunlight is streaking through her.
I see her faces in the tumult
of a crowd. As I stepped
from a curb on Spring Street
I was hit by a woman on her bike
so hard I dropped my pen, my papers,
everything spilled from my bag
and she didn't even bother
to say I'm sorry. That same afternoon
an old man with a duck-head cane
pushed his way onto an arriving train
past all of us standing in line.
The doors closed and the train sped away.
Everything I see is disappearing.
Bob is gone. Levi moved to Boston.
Gloria is a toaster or a leaf,
a little girl feeding ice cream to a cat.
From both sides of where we stand
a door is closing. Listen,
the birds are united in singing
against us. Their opposition proves
our capacity for love. Listen,
people surface and dive
in the same river we swim
unnoticed. What I thought
was the setting sun was a city on the border.
The feathers that filled the air
were a pillow where she set down her head.