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’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.