I could tell she liked me by how often she returned to my table 

with fresh coffee and willing small talk, standing a little too close

for a married woman, and maybe if I had pressed the issue

I could have pushed for something more, 

gained her confidence as some men do with a woman 

who steps through the world unnoticed

except when pirouetting plates of bacon and grits.

As a detective, I notice everything: her jeans cutting low

on her ashen hips; the Democrat bumper stickers 

on her Prius; the hoop earrings and lipstick 

she put on after I arrived; new Reeboks; 

a $200 Fossil watch her husband gave her for Christmas

three years ago; and how she comped my breakfast 

after I said she had beautiful blue eyes

even though they were green.  Because, 

as I moved through the darkness of my shadow

like a Cold War spy, breath heaving against the boredom 

of an ordinary life, she sat down at my table

and asked what it’s like being colorblind.

Then, I asked her a question, and another.  

She told me everything I wanted to know about her life,

smiling that a stranger would be so fascinating.


The Seeker of Beartooth Pass

The dream I had this morning was not mine.

It belonged to a man who took too long

to stake his claim for it.  No tent or sleeping bag,

only a knife and knowledge to survive,

I stepped into the wilderness barefoot

to sleep on a bed of feather-moss, to search 

for the great Lakota nagi, my eyes 

catching ten-million-year-old light.

Anxious and uncertain, wet in the day,

at night, cold, hungry, alone in silence 

save for the wind and the Great Horned Owl, 

I drank dew dripping from low-hanging leaves,

ate ripe huckleberries, Mountain Sorrel, Fireweed shoots 

and crayfish under creek rocks, avoiding Corpse Berry at all cost.

The Indian spirit spoke my name,

chose my nagi in my most disparate hour

when all doors had closed and the great warrior 

led me to defeat the native guard.

Dreams of people float into the open, unclaimed,

emptied of all that we know and don’t know

of the mountains when lightning jars the sky

like a rattlesnake coiled in a bath tub.

I climbed down the mountain to Tongue River,

stepping out as Three Stars of the Wolverine,

and was forever changed, never the same.


The Uncertainty Principle           

The great lull of my childhood stretched out

into the late summer afternoons, fading 

off the glint of Lake Erie so that what was 

was no longer, and what I thought 

I knew of the universe, I didn’t know, how

the more something exists, the less 

it is there.  And after the sun closed

down the day, as the dinner plates were washed

and carefully placed in the cupboards, 

there was the inevitable loneliness,

a worried state I felt inside

our rented house, that nothing belonged

to us that couldn’t be taken away.

Fast forward twenty years

to a crowded restaurant, where maybe

I imagined what I wanted to hear 

while sitting at a small table

with fine white linen, her tongue rolling

a dry chardonnay behind her smile.

There was the clank of a dish, laughter 

a few tables over, the door opening

and a car horn stretching through.  Right there, 

among these sounds, she said she could marry me.

Still, somehow, it doesn’t seem real, 

and now she has faded far into oblivion, 

which is the antithesis of all I know

to be true.  

But even if I do not look at the moon, 

it is still there.


William Walsh: Books include Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers, The Ordinary Life of a Sculptor, The Conscience of My Other Being, Under the Rock Umbrella: Contemporary American Poets from 1951-1977, and David Bottoms: Critical Essays and Interviews. His work has appeared in AWP Chronicle, Cimarron Review, Five Points, Flannery O’Connor Review, James Dickey Review, The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Rattle, Shenandoah, Slant, and Valparaiso Review.