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Four Poems
by Don Winter

The Dream Home

Traveling north to hunt deer
you take a wrong turn
and stop for directions
at a house you've never seen.
A woman, fat and wholesome,
awaits you on the porch.
She smells like freshly baked bread
and when you ask her
for directions she leads you inside
to a clean white table,
a cup of black tea.

This is more than you ever imagined before.
A plate, a knife and a fork are already laid out.
You pretend you're not starving,
take a sip of the hot tea,
place the napkin in your lap.
Three girls, each under 5,
hold their skirts
as they walk down the long stairway
into the room. They smile at you,
and you smile back.

After supper the woman asks
if you might tuck the girls in
before you leave. As you tuck each one in
you hum nursery songs
under your chest.

After they're asleep
the woman invites you
to the back porch
to watch the sun go. You do not refuse her
when she opens your red flannel shirt.
You need love like all of us.
This is no dream, you think,
No dream. In the wet grass
you try to match your breathing
to hers.

Eugene's Drive to Work

The hiss of the storm door trails him
to the car. He cranks the engine,
cranks it again. Maybe he is
just like his father:
same shift at Hamtramck Auto,
same bottle of whiskey,
same fights.
He backs out of the driveway,
begins to drive, but turns
and returns like a thought.
He thinks of arguments he might have used,
his tongue rolling them out
like commandments. He looks in at the light
of the bar, watches it fall
from the rearview mirror.
Squirrels, buzzing question marks,
run the bridge that leads to the plant.
He thinks of all the arguments,
of all the times he wanted to leave,
and he remembers: half a city,
half a shift apart
makes him and his wife friends,
or at least makes them tolerate
crude moments they spend like that.
He remembers by forgetting
everything else. Nightly, boards up his eyes.
Round here traditions are kept
like husbands, like wives.

Silent in America

If you were fifty-five
and your speech had been crushed
by factories and divorce
to a single vowel, you might drift,
as he did, transient as a dream,
beneath the random lettering
of a broken marquee, beyond
all bittersweet efforts to connect,
to make sense, to endure.
You might stumble at dusk
to the Shelter Workshop,
listen to a revivalist
swollen like a tent, in trade
for a few hours of cold
comfort. It's taken years to forget
what's missing in your life:
the woman who bore you
eight children, the beaten Dodge,
the engines hung from the rafter
like hams. Here, a pale blob
of cold light gasps
you awake. The heat takes care
of itself. You mechanically eat
a doughnut, drink a cup of coffee.
The door closes, final
as a slap. You wander neighborhoods wrapped
in sleep, past dogs barking
who are you and cars and the ear
of a basketball hoop that listens
for its one song.
What can anyone do for you now?

Wooden Indian Motel Blues

2 a.m.
On the tube
the actress says,
"How do you want my tears,
halfway down my cheeks
or all the way down"?
I say,
"How do you want my poem,
halfway down the page
or all the way down?"

About the author:
Don Winter went from being owner of Southeast Real Estate to poverty after a 1998 divorce. He's since taken up the poem, with acceptances from nearly 400 journals in the U.S., Switzerland, England, Canada, Ireland and Australia, including
New York Quarterly, Passages North, Southern Poetry Review, Portland Review, The Sycamore Review, 5AM, Slipstream, Pearl and Chiron Review. His first chapbook, Things About to Disappear, was published in spring, 2005, and a collaboration with Robert L. Penick and Harlan Ristau is due later in the year. His work has been nominated for 5 Pushcarts. He is a co-editor for Alaska Quarterly Review and co-editor for Fight These Bastards.

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