Nebraska Center for Writers

by James Cihlar

You asked me to go with you
to an estate auction thirty miles south.
You told me
about driving with your twin,
how you would lay your head
in his lap as he drove.
After I moved in, he would call
and leave messages like,
“Watch ‘Night Court,’ it’s funny.”
We stopped at a Dairy Queen
on the way, probably the same one
I stopped at ten years later
with a student, on our way to a reading,
thinking how far away I’d gotten
from myself. Then we drove
through a town called Friend,
with the sign, You’ve Got a Friend
in Friend. The auction was a bust,
tables of orange sunburst jewelry
and green pressed glass.
It was a chance to hold hands
in the car, I guess,
listen to the radio play “Precious and Few,”
like we did the night I told you
why I did not want to move in,
or like we did at the theater,
watching Murphy’s Romance,
my jacket thrown over our hands.

Reprinted with permission
from The James White Review,
Copyright © 1997
by James Cihlar

by James Cihlar

Start with the granite stones
laid at the base of the white post fence
with grapevines wound through.
Someone had to place them there.
Go to the English Ivy
trained up the green slate wall,
sheltered even in winter.
How hard would it be
to stay in one place, year after year,
locked into family
and father? Every day
is a prop against leaving,
until you feel the weight upon you:
sour water in the plastic wading pool,
the play-worn spot
where grass will never grow.
Some day it will all come crashing down,
and you will think,
I must give up to save myself.
Look at the terraced yard
where the weeping willow
has shrugged off its leaves.
I’ve left, too.
The light has retreated into windows,
and the day has put its color away.
Someone will have to go back
and pick up what has fallen.

Reprinted with permission
from Minnesota Monthly, June 1998
Copyright © 1998
by James Cihlar

by James Cihlar

I know my name. I remember
when it was another word to learn,
a new taste on the tongue. Then a way
to reach me, a spoon against the rim of a glass.
Now a stroking inside my chest.

I know my age. When I was six
I figured out how long I’d live after my father.
I told him,
as he sat in his grease-stained work clothes
at the round, gray formica table.

I did not know he would leave me
long before he would die. But now,
inside me is a father
who knows the words of every place,
although I can’t find him always.

He can reach the words on the ceiling,
lay them down on the table in daylight,
or shake them loose from the corners
of the throat. He can see the words
and he knows the end of the story.

Reprinted with permission
from Norheast, Winter 1997-98
Copyright © 1997
by James Cihlar

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Nebraska Center for Writers