Caroline Cottom

Of Sky and Earth # 23 by Stephen Linsteadt

Hors D’Oeuvres

The bus trembles over mountain
passes, veers down to the desert

valley like a great hawk circling
over switchbacks and snaky roads.

At the station my father, his cheeks
and shirt sallow, dark settled half-

moons beneath his eyes, waits
for me, jangling keys in his pocket

as though hoping to toss the dice
and, just for once, win. I’ve come

because my newly divorced father
anguishes at being alone—but

anxiety surges when I see him,
later heightened by the prospect

of two nights in a motel, our rooms
joined by a door. Outside, a pool

glimmers in the desert heat beside
a coterie of worn lounge chairs

and a woman tucked behind a book
who doesn’t glance up when I join

her. He will work daytimes, call on
prospects for his “Construction

Desk Book” subscription service,
while I read Lolita, disgusted by

the sexualized nymphet. At lunch
he says I need something to dress

me up—in truth, I’ve left all
adornments at home. He asks me

to invite my pool mate for dinner,
orders a tower of hors d’oeuvres—

sea creatures spilling over crudités
and crushed ice—eyes me, eyes

the tower, pouts, But why didn’t
she come?
I keep what I know

to myself. The next day we shop.
He buys me a pearl ring.

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