A neighbor’s weighty package dropped
at the curb, their frantic call for help
to push it up their steps, two weeks
of back pain, a parking ticket
at the chiropractor’s office.
I’m restless. All around me graying trees
keep toppling, the acrid scent of a struck
match forgotten in the aftermath
of too much rain, turning mountain
roads dizzying, precarious.
Like the Flecha Roja bus I once took
from Mexico City to Cuernavaca,
catching other people’s baskets of melons
and chickens from sliding in the aisles.
I was hungry and headachy,
until a young woman, dressed in a huipil
she’d woven herself on a backstrap loom,
pulled a tortilla from a placket
in her skirt, kept warm and soft
from body heat, fresh maize and lime
mingling on my tongue.
I had never felt so alive. But something
is always trying to upend me—the contact lens
I finally found when it crunched under my shoe,
my wallet missing after a tussle on the subway,
the memory of understanding too late
that the woman my friends and I had observed,
laughing with her handsome date
at the restaurant table, had fallen asleep,
chin on her chest, perhaps too many
margaritas, the man gently removing
her gold earrings, poking through her purse,
vanishing as the waiter brought the check.
for my daughter
She walks out of the main feature and buys a car,
insurance, a rooftop suitcase, a camera, and drives herself
to the moon, sinks her tires into Swiss cheese, then,
climbing higher, captures the Continental Divide
from outer space.
She leaves a trail of moon tracks, bread crumbs
for future travelers, eating the Milky Way
as she drives through the night, stowaway stars
clinging to the fabric ceiling of her Subaru.
After an incident involving bear spray and luggage,
she’s on the road again, stops to watch buffalos
seated in a circle and listening to a bald eagle
speculating from the top
of a cell tower. She paints lavender into the sunset
and patches of snow.
At breakfast, sipping oolong from a mug,
she pulls a canopy of rain clouds
around her shoulders, spoons from a bowl
of mountaintop icing. Opens her arms wide
to let the gusts carry her, past the mouth
of a canyon, cascading moss, cotton-puffed
mountain goats singing from the cliffs,
and up to the sun pearling on a high lake,
where she drifts…
ODE TO A CORDLESS LIGHTWEIGHT STICK VACUUM CLEANER
after Thomas Lux
Your lone plastic limb, the wet
neon red of Lux’s maraschino cherries,
stands tall in a storage closet near lightbulbs
and wine bottles. I connect leg
to torso, inspect your innards
through thick, clear polymer,
watch fascinated as tufts of hair,
fur, dead insects, crumbs, claw tips,
wrappers whip and spin in hot frenzy.
Your headlight highlights
debris strewn across the dining room
floor, like those frantic couples leaving
a trail of hastily discarded clothing.
Sometimes my husband finds me
stalking you in the dark, stroking the long line
of your physique, attracted to the growing
hairball circling inside you like cotton candy.
You are my amusement toy, a lady’s helper,
replacing the big lug that gave me
backaches and choked on his own cord,
and when you tire, I gently unsnap
your lid, tip your soft pellet into the trash,
wait in anticipation as you recharge…
Abby Caplin’s poems have appeared in AGNI, Catamaran, The MacGuffin, Midwest Quarterly, Moon City Review, Pennsylvania English, Ponder Review, Salt Hill, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Southampton Review, Tikkun, and elsewhere. Among her awards, she has been a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award, a semi-finalist for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award, and a nominee for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of A Doctor Only Pretends: poems about illness, death, and in-between (2022). Abby is a physician in San Francisco, California.