The Heart's Pitter-Patter
I. April 7, 1995: Okay! I mean, yes!
His upper back bled.
The man with the electric needle paused over Alaska.
The tissue dabbed. Such color, she thought.
Vermont: billiards hustler's felt.
New York: boiled yolk. Kentucky: chicory. Idaho: iodine.
Nevada: grape soda. She sipped hers.
He tensed all the muscles in his face.
Ouch, she mouthed.
Months, he had been coming here for her.
Now, Hawaii flickered with every prick.
Pink as raw chicken breasts,
a banner unfurled off the coasts of America.
Her name and FOREVER trekked across in black.
The man with the electric needle said, Let me get my camera.
Her husband-to-be looked over his shoulder. He pointed.
See that word? It's how long I will curse you
if you leave me now.
II. November 7, 1805: Ocian in view! O! the joy
Instead, Gray's Bay greets them.
For eleven days afterwards, the northwest vault of heaven
plots to prevent culmination—the Pacific just beyond
the bays' cavalry of whitecaps, its battering rams
of drifting pine and spruce. In Clark's journal, complaints
quilled specimens of wretchedness:
canoes roll and toss until men green and heave;
at high tide, the camp floods;
leather rots—robes for bedding, shirts off backs;
dried fish stores plump and stink;
every man as wet as water
could make them, but still, they spark,
chearfull, to see the ocean.
By the nineteenth,
a dead sturgeon—ten feet long—peels its scales;
the backbone of a whale revels in its foundering;
Chinook men boast pistols and sailors' jackets;
J. Bowman, reads a tattoo, inky praise on a girl's left arm.