John Vincent

First she thought
That Could Be Me

Thank God It’s Not.

But it followed her
from the break room.

The drill press
made repeated suggestions

the card clock
stapled it to her sleeve.

Surely every one else saw it,
thought it a remnant of her neglect.

The clerk snagged her cigarettes
from above his head without looking

he bagged the tampons
quickly, left the gum on the counter.

Why an escaped dwarf?
Why an unrealistic family

each behind
a curtain opened

at the touch of a button?
Her Datsun hunkered.

Inside, the smell of new heat.
The roads wore the snow

off the shoulder
and the front door

was unlocked.
But she only read it

that afternoon,
after leaving the Cheerios

toppled and spilled
over the spare key.

She must have left all the lights on
on purpose, the shower dripping,

every window open,
an icicle on the bathroom faucet

shy and shiny as a tear.
The shower curtain

pulled full around.
The heat clanked to catch up.

Closing each window,
latching each window

she recalled sidestepping
the center of the hallway,

stepping around it.
No mark.

But she stepped around it
again, understood

something was missing.
The end of the story was unconvincing

though, revenge is never zip locked,

it is what starts stories
and the dead always come back

as earaches or missing buttons.
Putting the kettle on

felt epic,
pulling the teabag

from its sleeve,

The salt and pepper shakers
were each toppled

next to a knife out of the block
covered with

She’d forgot her trip to the bank,

she’d forgot dinner,
she’d hurried past the clogged

mail box.
The setting wasn’t even convincing.

But now one spool unraveled,
its thread stabbed

into canvas, in rows.
Formed a sack.

Rocks rimmed
the dead herbs

out back.  They clacked
in the sack, sound of boats

at dock.  The hatchback
groaned open.

The bag curled perfectly
around the spare.

The drive was short,
the lake frozen.

Hard to chip.
Now and then the boom

of great plates

Then there was a hole.
The sack slid into it

like oil,
and the shattered ice

rippled back,
little floes

rocked and settled,
as if a puzzle done

just to do a puzzle
for the hundredth time.

She smoked all the way home.
And forgot her way home.

Where was the circus now?
Who had a circus

in the dead of winter?
In what trailer

did occupants persist
on bourbon and canned sausages?

It wasn’t hers, the story,
but she worked at it,

and shifting on her seat
a necklace snagged the seat belt

a necklace she’d never seen before
plopped its beads

in her lap.