Black Flat
by Bryan R. Monte

Derek, you bastard, you kept me too late!
And now the rain makes my tires squeal
on the the turns through the university parkway.
God, I love the feel of your conversation
your teeth-clenched accent
your room’s lavender walls
on which hang art posters
from Paris and Berlin while outside
Cleveland’s steel plant ashes fall gently
syncopated by a Mozart symphony.

Eight hours a day I’d grind optical lenses
chewing pink dust through a face mask
watching co-workers cough and laugh
and slap each other on the back
signalling through cigarette-yellowed fingers
above the whine of the machinery
Mom so proud of my new union job
She gave me her car. After work
I’d swing by your dorm.
A quick meal and a bottle of wine
and we’d be laughing and rolling on the lawn
then go downtown to buy the bag ladies supper
recording their stories for local colour
the radio my noisy companion back to my side of town
talking and singing to me to make sure
I didn’t miss any of the exits, the car rolling smoothly
along the elevated, concrete expressway.

The day your letter arrived from Stanford
Your voice came from the end of a long corridor
and soon I was parting the iron, luminous plume downtown
to drive you away forever.
The radio was on and the windows were up
but we weren’t even talking.
Streetlights strobed the windshield accusingly
Never, never, you’ll never!
Driving home the world folded out black flat
and I drifted through three lanes alone.