Hope Fled by Michael Channing

Hope Fled

by Michael Channing

hope fled and i sped after
in a '98 taurus shaking like a wet puppy
and reaching out the window every twenty seconds
to wipe the rain from the windshield

i saw taillights tap to brake lights
every once in a while and
i knew hope
as brash and reckless as he was
still wasn't brave enough to be suicidal

the world rolled over into a purple twilight
and we came to a crossroad
slowed and slipped beneath a traffic light
that blinked like the pulse of a dying man

hope stopped his truck got out
and i followed him up the rickety steps
of the proud rooster cafe
the windows were fly-specked and what
sunlight not too ashamed to enter the place
hung out mostly by the jukebox
like a shy teenager with a pocket full of change
hoping someone would stroll up in need of a quarter

hope took a booth
and i sat across the table from him
we both ordered coffee
the waitress walked like she'd gotten lost
on the way to her execution
and was afraid to look up and draw attention
to the guards' mistake
you look familiar she said to hope
i been through here before he said
you graduate from southern she asked
a couple times he said
and they laughed at whatever that meant
he said the daisy in her hair was just the right touch
she smiled and said thank you and brought our coffees and fixings
she barely looked at me at all

a trucker approached us to bum a cigarette
walked away with half a pack
i didn't know you smoked i said
hope shrugged
i pick it up and put it down
before either of us could drain our cups enough to summon the waitress
i asked

why now
when everything's falling apart
when the pigs own the farm
and all the world is ashes and flies
have you decided to up and leave
and not even bother to turn off the lights

he clacked down his mug
adjusted the glasses he so rarely wore
made that sound in the back of his throat
that meant he was about to get all philosophic

you see that he said pointing out the window
at my car
you followed me in that
engine firing like a flickering bulb
tires as worn and threadbare as your heart
through the dark
through the rain
rattling in the rickety frame
like dice in a drunken fist
that took more than hope
that took guts

where'd your friend go
the waitress asked when she returned
not far i said as i paid the check

i went outside, past my car, into town
it was light
the rain had quit
and i wanted to walk for a change

A Little Bit Left, Here and There

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Chokes and Warbles
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Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing