Phoenix-based Mary Stone, who holds an MA in Rhetoric from Northern Arizona University, has worked as a biomedical writer, college writing instructor, and grant writer. Currently, she facilitates monthly poetry salons and serves as a spiritual director for artists, writers, and people in recovery. Her poetry has been published in Gyroscope Review, New Verse News, Image, and The Healing Art of Writing, vol. 1, among other publications. Her first chapbook is forthcoming in 2024 from Finishing Line Press.
Thirty-six thousand feet below,
sun and cloud bloom, then disappear
on a hundred pewtered ponds,
the earth here, a deity
with its hundred eyes opening
and closing, a surfeit of orbs
gazing skyward and inward at once.
The corn and soybean fields, fallow now,
tan and gray, stippled with creeks,
stubbled with leafless hardwoods.
Out my window, Iowa City, where
I almost followed you to school.
But, you ended it, and anyway,
I would have hated living
off the land in Alaska, your dream,
realized, says your obituary.
Near the time you died – I didn’t know,
of course, that you were dying –
I finally pitched your letters,
handwritten, bundled with brittle
rubber bands, and your portrait.
Gazed at your face again, oh man,
and read your words, to reassure myself:
it was love, I meant more to you than
mere diversion between your star
athletic turns. The gods in Iowa,
though, I know them well.
And I know where I am now, flying
east through another day’s golden hour.
There’s the river. On the Illinois side,
fields are flatter, more uniform,
with fewer creeks and scant timber
to disrupt a certain order, foreordained.
Half-moon above, we cross the desert
in the night. I notice only tail lights
of the truck in front of us, its trailer looming
tall and dark as we pass, how it blots out,
for a moment, the Mojave. Again and again.
We race the clock: our daughter is in labor.
We got the call at 6 pm, no time to pack:
toothbrush, undies, dogs, kibble. Her father,
already at the hospital, dozing in his car.
(Long apart, yet my heart never seems to
finish the thing, a ruby, recirculating.)
We stop only once, at the Flying J, where
rows of trucks idle under bright lights,
and long-haul drivers catnap in their cabs.
For us, coffee, M&M’s, a full tank of gas.
For the dogs, a quick walk, a meticulous
sniffing of interstate mystery scents.
Slow, then a speeding up, an epidural,
more slowing. Progress texts from our
son-in-law, and we respond with ours:
Blythe, Chiriaco Summit, its General-
Patton-museum-WWII-era tanks, all but
invisible in the dark. Palm Springs. On
a Friday, at 3 am, LA’s as quiet as it gets.
Son-in-law’s overnight beard, daughter’s
smile between contractions. Waiting room,
vinyl chairs, more coffee. Sunrise. At last,
a nurse summons me. My daughter, a mother.
Her forehead cools under a damp cloth as
her arms assess the length and breadth and
weight of mystery, and her nose, the scent.