At a Days Inn in Barstow, California

Chloe Honum

It's dusk on a Tuesday in June. A hot wind
       bears down and east. In my room, a stranger's
hairclip lies like a gilded insect beside the sink.
       Hours later, it's still dusk; it will be dusk all night.
Last month, I cut the masking tape from a box my mother left
       my sister and me. On the lid, she wrote, Life is hard, not
unbeatable. If I can do it, darlings, so can you. 2 am. A rosy dark
       dusting the window, the heat a ladder into sleep.

Related Poems

The Sublime Before (Is Someone's After)

Red-throated hummingbirds spar above

the magnolia. Upwind, something grilled.

The dogs are still alive, yap at whitetail in

the cornfield. The rooster hasn't chased us

down the driveway, so no one got fed up,

loaded the shotgun. Father's heart doesn't

yet float on a pillow of fat. The miscarriage

is years off. Summers, we bleach hair with

lemon, are warm as gold on skin, haven't

glimpsed the shapes we'll be hammered in.

Erstling

Death is a beige Mercedes sedan.

I am five and riding
In the back,

Eating small white chocolates,
My long, thin body

Along the butter-
Soft red leather seat.

What I want is to become

What I was
Before the accident.

You think
I’m a rumor.

I move from one world
To the next

Living inside a mink
Lined winter,

           God’s child-
           Like voice

           Singing quietly
           Inside me.

While looking at photo albums

Christmas Eve, 2016

Before everyone died – in my family – first definition I learned was – my mother’s maiden name, ULANDAY – which literally means – of the rain – and biology books remind us – the pouring has a pattern –  has purpose – namesake means release – for my mother meant, flee – meant leave – know exactly what parts of you – slip away – drained sediment of a body – is how a single mama feels – on the graveyard shift – only god is awake –  is where my – family banked itself – a life rooted in rosaries – like nuns in barricade – scream – People Power – one out of five – leave to a new country – the women in my family hone – in my heart – like checkpoints – which is what they know – which is like a halt  – not to be confused for – stop – which is what happened to my ma’s breath– when she went home – for the last time – I didn’t get to – hold her hand as she died – I said I tried – just translates to – I couldn’t make it – in time – I tell myself – ocean salt and tear salt – are one and the same – I press my eyes shut – cup ghost howl – cheeks splint wood worn – which is to say – learn to make myself a harbor – anyway – once I saw a pamphlet that said – what to do when your parent is dead –  I couldn’t finish reading – but I doubt it informs the audience – what will happen – which is to say – you will pour your face & hands – & smother your mother’s scream on everything – you touch – turn eyelids into oars – go, paddle to find her.