N. M. Courtright



  Handfuls of sand cradle the casino,
The Crab House, the neon light souvenir
Shops and seedy strip clubs. Midnight is so
Bright, the blanket between pinprick stars fears

It has never been a better lampshade.
  In spring the locals wait for hurricanes.
They board up their windows so to be safe,
Check their firearms and prepare for the rain.

  I read about a boy who jumped into
A leaf pile and was killed. Errant tent stake.
  No doubt he'd be brave enough to stay through
The crashing stormwaves smashing the shore's face.

There are many tragedies to condemn.
A fear of life is but one of them.



It hadn't made itself obvious, but rain had been falling
among the fire hydrants, and every divot
in the asphalt was a telegram.
Just a few words. This has happened before,

her sister stuck in the wind's shiftiness
like a sunbeam. Even the neon lights soaked her in,
just to spite their own inherent brightness.
Pittsburgh, 1987,

and hostels tumbleweeded down the street.
Dust clung like koala cubs to the lampshades,
and was shaken by little but stray fingers or a cat's tail.
Mirrors watched the water, the washing hands.

The porcelain cold as it often is, the waiting line
stretched long into the hallway.
She looked out the window
like it was something to do, a way to while away.

She could have left her sister and her glass face,
gone elsewhere for a breath of fresh air.
Perhaps a place with more trees,
big ones you couldn't hug.

But to think her exhale was a changing of leaves,
a collection already in the gutter, was simple.
And that rain, it was so damn oblivious
it leapt from the awning like falcons.




on "Biloxi":
This poem is an admittedly dark demonstration of the human embrace of life—one that in
youth is willing to breach the unknown by jumping into a leaf pile, and one that in
adulthood is willing to protect the homestead against an uncontrollable force. Whereas
the two situations are different—one emphasizes foresight and caution while the other
abandons them—a city of indulgence serves as an appropriate setting for running towards
life rather than away from it.

on "A Runaway Craning of Her Neck":
A vague account of a woman's complicated decision to stay with or leave behind her troubled sister, this poem's odd metaphors and muddled circumstances attempt to demonstrate the disconnect between family loyalty and concern for the welfare of one's own self. To me, this poem feels like the intense thinking that cannot be remembered immediately after someone asks, "what are you thinking about?"