Every night I’d climb into my truck

and head toward wilderness,

saguaro arms upstretched in the headlights.

Everyone expected me to smile again, 

to start feeling better,

but I was marking time, discarding days

like used paper plates.

Every morning I’d climb back into my skin 

and cry, clean houses for cash, 

serve coffee at the Chocolate Iguana

and try small talk, words

sticky tabletops to be scrubbed down,

my hands chemical-cracked.

Friends asked Why did you stay?

No one undersood: 

I was caught in a flash flood, 

sinking in mud, unable to free my feet,

hills in the distance.

I loved a man that hurt me;

no one could tell me how to let

that love go, or how to let go

my failure to be the kind of woman

he didn’t need to hurt. 

The heart holds acres of empty air

and sorrow like a lodgepole pine,

ancient and straight to heaven.

I was afraid to fall asleep,

afraid to dream, and waking

was worse, torn in two 

all over again, a tree ripped 

from earth in high storm

and knocked back to ground, 

mat of roots and dirt dangling,

everything exposed in early light. 

Saguaros reach adulthood at a century

and a quarter. They live two hundred

years. When they die and their pleats

rot to dust, their ribs still stand, 

testimony to a tenacious life.

I hiked Pima Canyon with horned

owls at dusk, but couldn’t escape 

my mind.  Every Friday I played cards

with co-workers. Terrible

at hearts, I always shot the moon

and lost. How long would it take for me

to look in a mirror and tell myself

that I was not to blame?

Jana-Lee Germaine is a Caucasian woman with long dark brown hair and dark brown eyes.

Jana-Lee Germaine’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Nimrod, Sugar House Review, Cimarron Review, Presence 2022, december, Rock & Sling, New South, The Windhover, The Baltimore Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. She earned an MFA from Emerson College and is a Senior Poetry Reader for Ploughshares. Her first poetry manuscript, Learning Curve, was a finalist in the Barrow Street Book Prize. A survivor of domestic violence in her first marriage, she lives with her very nice second husband, four children, and four rescue cats in semi-rural Massachusetts.