Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Her most current chapbooks are “The Coincidence of Castles” from Glass Lyre Press, and “Romance and Rust” from Blue Horse Press. Her collaborative full-length collection, “The Color of Forgiveness”, is available from Mojave River Press. She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
Evening in Oban
A table for sitting,
the profile of your strong jaw
as you scan the horizon
for boats and wayfarers.
A rooftop chapel of silence
but for the outside flutes
of wind brushing leaves,
birds heading home,
and the crinkle of water
along the shoreline,
as ferries slowly cruise to sleep
until beginning again with the sun.
Forested ruins spotlit by stars,
and us, holding hands,
a bottle of red and one of water
between us, our blended
observations deliberately low,
as an audience will whisper
while leaning toward the orchestra,
waiting for those first real notes
A Passion for Citrus
Sixty-seven years ago
Dave married into this citrus family.
Just he, his new brother,
a two-man trailer in a dirt clearing
and an old percolator from the house
still kept immaculate by his wife.
Plaid was meant for mornings like this—
hand-knit gloves pull a thermometer
close to his eyes
that blink with decision
about smudge pots—
Dave loves to pick an early-morning fruit,
the sound as it snaps off the branch
and the leaves brush around the wound.
He peels, watches the spray refract
prisms in the rising sun,
the scent of grapefruit full in his chest,
fingers ridged with oils.
But how many more frosted winters
will chronicle this family’s heritage?
They are tired: 87, 85, no insurance,
all their kids through school—
the youngest manages everyone’s money,
says they’ve all done well enough.
He presses the fruit to his lips.
Maybe it’s time.
There’s stillness on the street.
as streetlights flicker
In his locked store, the cobbler
is at his bench with one desklight.
He hammers grommets onto leather
supple as a mirage.
Behind the darkened window,
his awls, his fingers, his craft.
He pours himself into Sunday wingtips
that will touch the grass beneath an arbor,
leaves rustling above.
The cobbler will know the steps
of their every dance.
One Bedroom Studio
we can’t sleep.
She gets out of bed to paint:
scents of turpentine and Chanel No 5
roll me out of bed to write.
We work in the same space
drawn together by something funky
on the radio—horns, piano,
then Norah Jones.
She reads over my shoulder, steals
some words for her canvas, scripts
them down the side of a collage
filled with the city’s night fog.
A good start before we grab
a couple more hours of shuteye.
Her hair pinned up spiky,
blush of paint on her cheek,
telltale spot of lapis on my foot
from her “hit and run” kiss.
We hold hands to still them.
Awake again, we check on what the night’s
urgency wrought, two strangers
to someone else’s creativity.
My words, her art—
we claim them ours.
Odd Little Family
Uncle Lucius and Aunt Betts had a cabin two hours
west of us in non-rush hour, even with dad hungover
and anxious, even on storm-slick roads,
you could set your watch by that time.
Betts was mom’s younger sister. She gave
the best hugs, and could listen to our laments
even while peeling potatoes, having a smoke
and talking to her 70-year-old alone friend
Joan on the phone. We loved to eavesdrop on Betts
as she consoled Joan, her ash dropping into a cooling
cup of coffee. What we learned from Betts seared us
precocious about the thorny nuances of friendship.
We also learned how to read cookbooks,
forty ways to make wicked mashed potatoes,
and the differences in avocados—
from her avocado man at the Farmer’s market.
If we had homework, we’d bring it, Betts watching
sideways as we drooped from boredom, Otherwise
we’d be family. We never knew most people had TV
and didn’t tell stories or chat until bedtime.
Sometimes we’d help Uncle Lucius
in the garden until “skunk hour”, when
the brilliant sky turned gray with dusk,
when skunks slunk from the gaining dark
to plunder his green beans and lettuce.
They paid us no mind as long as they
weren’t startled. We’d go back into the cabin
and played no tricks.
Yes, people thought we were odd.
No school dances, no trick-or-treating—
we missed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan,
probably the only ones I knew who did.
Come Sunday Aunt Betts would hang our shirts
on the line to smell like sun, pack some
snacks, and wait with us for dad, the lightest twilight
drizzle a silence near immaculate.