American Gothic in the Sunshine State

We feel the ropey heat like home but shiver in
the chill of indoor air. We haven’t smelled
ourselves for days or felt our bodies in this place
of skins, of shirtless men in floral swim trunks,
women’s sandy feet exposed to all and sundry,
sandal straps that wink with jewels, postcards
thin with lies. Sliding glass opens onto wintry blasts.
Fans rumble overhead too loud to ask a stranger
for directions. We can’t begin to tell how cold we are.

There used to be a public restroom here.
Or did we use the head aboard the Twilight
Dinner Cruise? Did I excuse myself before the flans
and wash my hands with dainty soaps,
the ones they had last year, remember?

He wipes his specs in lieu of answer on his sleeve—
the habit covers what he doesn’t know he doesn’t—
and palms, as if attached, the phantom pitchfork seized
at Cedar Rapids Airport. Who, he says,
will stack the hay? In this frame he’s adrift,
deaf in the ear he presents to the world. The past is
whittled smooth yet the seasonal itch returns
like destinations. Spiked flora grows on shifty lands.
Flat roofs. Crab Huts. Nothing reminds us of ourselves.
We go to view the sea cows but are lost.

It’s worth it for the birds. Slender, tall and white.
Necks so long they kink like plumbing. So many
we don’t know. They sleep one-footed; walk like urges
surrendered, fought, surrendered, fought from neck
to buckled step. Sandhill crane, Great egret,
Wood stork. And the funny ones along the shore—
what are they called? Quizzing the sand with long,
curved beaks? We ought to buy a guide.

The people here are eager to please, and so we save
our judgments for hotel mirrors. So many—judgments,
mirrors—our reflections startle. The Ramada’s vast,
enumerated beds could sleep or frost a quilting bee.
He shivers beside me beneath chilled Rayon and,
speaking now, says this:


The heart, a lucid pulse inside skins of blackout drapes.

American White Ibis.

I say, Ibis, yes. That’s the one, and listen for
the wheeze of snores. This is, my dears, the future.
We are no more here than you are.