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Nebraska

by Steve Gaines

this far flat space
land of long-distance sunsets
and storms that approach forever
along a darkened horizon

this Nebraska
wheat field flat
and home of the longest straight stretch
of highway anywhere
fifty-five miles without a bend

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The Dying Roommate

by Steve Gaines

post-bypass…
written February 21, 1995

across my room in the other bed
behind the drawn curtain
lies an old man dying without his beard
clinging noisily to one more night of life

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Mostly White Meat

[Author’s Note: This poem also appears in my play, The Weeping Water Cafe.]

A face, tender as a porcelain doll,
cracks under the white hot mirror of
quartz lights.
A voice,
feeble at first,
then shouts into my living room.

I stop,
listen,
and a wrinkled pea rolls off my fork.

Something about exploding fuel like erasers
and a lost cause
and bruised bodies
and They’re All Dead.
I can’t swallow my mashed potatoes.

A commercial.

They are called heroes.
Invisible chests are adorned
with the metals from exploded tanks
and their memories are bathed in the
salty tear from a child’s eye.

The apple cobbler doesn’t look so good any more.

The news comes in fast…
A blue sock hiding a charred bone washes ashore —
a bottle holding a plea for help
from another unknown brother in horror.
They didn’t know what hit ’em.

The paste, called gravy, hardens over my
television dinner,
mostly white meat.

Replayed before the bloodshot eye of ground pirates,
the white pencils explode carefully planned
speeches again
and then some more.

And so the heroes are back in the clouds
where they belong.

And the potatoes,
quiet,
and still unswallowed,
harden
into seven chalky headstones.

After the Music

by Steve Gaines

July 3, 1954

On my 18th Birthday
A Memorial to an Ill-Spent Youth

It was so long ago
and I seldom bring it back these days
surprised to look at that age of adventure
from this distant couch
unable to recapture that careless attitude…
reluctant to admit the inability I suppose…
but here goes anyway

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