Jason Labbe

She named no roads.

X is the common variable, in this case

uncommon initial that stands

for her unknown name.

I’m Sandra but call me Joanne no call me Ann.

We picked at Vietnamese in silence.

I glimpsed the unmistakable X into a scribble

next to the X on the credit slip.

We joked in whispers through two movies:

the first flashed a string of crash scenes, the other

was more equestrian. A white horse fell in the mud.

She asked to stay the night

and sleep-talked into Sunday:

The route through the orchard is no escape.

She drifted out around dawn.

No evidence of X by the water but the water,

its advance and withdrawal.

No swimmers drag out remains

of the shipwreck she dreamed.

We were swimming for the life boat.

The water was burning.

Cannot count her among the horizon’s

dumb audience dozing under so many umbrellas.

Like a field of stalled pinwheels, no sign

of any missing letter. The tide goes out.

The horizon is more a seam than a line.

The horizon points in two directions.

To choose one is to travel the other.

To reach the desert X didn’t mean to mention

you must drive days through cornfields.

It is / isn’t worth countless hours

of static and left-arm sunburn

to find so much hot rock and sand.

There are scorpions. Thieves who remember

nothing of X peddle hallucinogens

that fall short of the legends.

The midnight sky never suggests a letter

you can remember. No matter how far and long

it travels, despite its perfect speed, light

would have to carry a message to be obsolete.

The midnight sky is nothing to blur.

Here is the city where the man who didn’t name X,

who was / wasn’t someone else’s father,

lived and died in his car. In the salvage yard

a hubcap and a puddle go on

reflecting each other and the moon.

This is a feral cat, not a letter, not a clue.

According to my nightwatch

every lease on the block is up, the brass mill

burned, and soon comes another Sunday.

X is nowhere I wish to be.

I dread most the orchard between

this city and my own,

the acres of shade. I will walk beyond

the outskirts to return home,

not with a name, but smelling of apples.