14 | ed tato

mackerel sky


A sun ablaze bores
from the horizon
and smolders through motel curtains
as thin as clouds that give no shade
to dead orange orchards or the dirt-packed road.
Grass fires pester your hopes for sleep,
and a penny for your thoughts
drowns in melting tar.

The air conditioner does not blow cold,
has never blown cold,
will never blow cold.

You need smokes, and something,
anything, to drink,
if you can face that girl –
the one with a freckle inside her ear –
who ducks your look and can’t understand
a word you say:

The Marlboros. The green ones.
The menthols.
No, the green ones.
The Marlboro menthols. Right there. Those.

And then to return
to the couple next door
who’s been at it all day,
just for you, you’re sure,
though the silence when they rest
is worse because the heat remains –
because even the shadows have schemed to leave you
for “Chilled Air” that lingers
in the self-proclaimed lobby –
where loiterers are strictly forbidden.

The copper-rocked mesa thrusts up more jagged
under a turquoise sky turning black.
The red clay road goads
with a more urgent orange at dusk.

Back home,
when you had a home –
on the other side of all that sandstone,
down this same road, long after the pavement starts –
you’d be settling back with a pitcher of whiskey sours
while patio misters drizzle cooling mist
and a rosy voice sings, “Arrorró mi niño” –
audible above broken tailpipes and thumping subwoofers,
and a belly-dumper’s whinging brakes,
while Orion rises calm above the palms
and helicopter searchlights –
much like it will rise tonight,
above all those scorpions
scrambling from bulldozed citrus.




quality of snow


It’s that first warm day in March,
when you can walk around the grounds in shorts.
You’re at the door, looking past her,
looking through the blinds
into all that sky.

Jailhouse Rock, Montavani style,
dripping with strings,
mews somewhere in the hall
behind you.

The aide says, again –
Boots instead of slippers, honey,
not over them.

She gapes
at the aide, or you –
you’re not sure which.
She tilts her head
and those viscous eyes.

All the paths are clear and dry,
so you carry her stick
but keep her arm looped through yours.
She pats your wrist when you move too fast.

Sunlight bangs off melting snow
and her diamond ring.

Elvis – she says –
Elvis was a gentleman.
Says – Did I ever tell you about the time…
and then geese, returning
home above you,
and honk.



ed tato’s birth was marked by the final flight of airship ZPG-2, which itself, grievously, terminated the US Navy’s lighter-than-air dirigible program. Felix The Cat and Friends, hosted by “Uncle Fred” Scott, took to the airwaves one last time and pitcher Mutt Wilson died that same curious day. Ed’s been mourning ever since.