Last night I finished chapter twelve. It was late, easily morning. I wrote a letter and took off my glasses and went to bed. Despite my late nights, I seem to be rising earlier and earlier. I seem to be existing on that plane where some of my friends exist, that zenith of not needing sleep, of being posed to spring, being bent like a wire.
It's hot and my house smells like earth. I am not trying not to think of all of the men who died in my bedroom, hundreds of years ago, a month from now, their arms sprouting like avocado trees.
I have grown used to the man on the corner who sits all day, neither drinking nor reading. I suppose he has grown used to me, the girl on her way to somewhere, bag swinging. I have grown used to the women who will not smile at me no matter how much I smile at them.
My friend, lovely, gracious, who let me sleep in her hotel room, shadow her through a strange city, and with whom I belong to a sort of correspondence workshop has asked, after months of poetry silence: Are we dead?
No, Emma, we are not dead.
A year ago, I came to this town. Yellow heat, the hurricane that followed and wilted the pages of books. The first night, after I had cried to the one who came with me and would leave me here, I don't think I can do this, the ceiling fan stalled, caught on dust, plaster chalked my throat, my mouth was the youngest mouth for miles. I dreamed someone whispered above my bed, She's still here. Yes, I'm still here. Yes, ghosts. Yes, meat trucks. Yes, motorcylists. Yes, bartenders with your towels. Bag boys with your braces. Young mothers. Bikes.
I'm still here. I am writing my chapters in the woods. I am letting my hair dry in the sun. I know what I must look like, coming over the tracks. I know I walk when I could be riding. I lock my door and I go out, every day.
Yesterday, feet slipping out of sandals, my bare skin touched something different: coldness, not gravel. It was slick and hard. I looked down at a stream of orange-yellow trickling in both directions up and down the railroad tracks. Corn. Some car must have leaked it, some lost grain. I took off both shoes and felt it. I wanted to run great fistfuls through my hands, but I was afraid someone might see, what they would think of this girl, shin-deep in spilled corn.
I'm still here. It was not the sign I have hoped for but it will do.