by Dan Kraines
I wake in my room at the Budget Nine Motel,
outside the front windows, facing
the town’s long road. At the welcome party,
when the father of the groom asks
if I am single or here alone,
I do not know how to respond: I am away
from myself, I want to say, since you
are not with me. The party overlooks a lake
surrounded by layers of brush and pine.
The bar offers beer with salt and lime.
In a cabin, playing cards, the father points
his phone down, taking
pictures of the bride’s shoes.
His family objects, but he is getting drunk,
as always. I think of getting drunk
and staying with the family
so I can avoid my motel, the motorcycles leaned
outside it like targets, planted
to start a war. Tomorrow, the father says,
I will fish before the ceremony.
I miss you. Looking down at my cards,
I see the queen turn into a jack. The game ends
and I thank the groom for including me
with his family: I am not the best
man, after all; I am not even in his wedding party.
All night, I drive through woods down
the town’s long road, dreaming
of the wedding’s sunset over the lake,
looking like tonight’s, but brighter, orange light
splashed against thick, cumulous purple.
In the City of No One
I fall asleep in my boxer briefs,
curled against a pillow, unable
to conjure a fantasy, thinking
you’ve left for good. I am a weathervane
afraid of heights. The train whistle
fills my body with yellow absence,
jailed-hurt. Above my head lifts the traffic
copter of guilt. If I hate my body enough,
would you come back? Around my waist
fat builds. I am away from my own pulse,
feeling faint, like a wildflower
in the afternoon, blown back in the wind
along the Texas highway,
the space hatred fills, no different
from where we were raised—
You, by the Rocky Mountains.
More sun and light than I think,
you said. White caps
above the desert sky,
rows of A, A, A, rising
like cries of pain.
Dan Kraines has published poems in The Carolina Quarterly, The Adroit Journal, and The Journal, among many other places. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Rochester, writing about the elegy in the work of four queer poets.